An Iraqi law that forces children of Christian converts to be legally recognized as Muslims will lead to Christianity's extinction, says Bishop Rabban al-Qas.
Al-Qas, the senior Catholic Bishop in the Dohuk area of Iraqi Kurdistan, has spoken out against the Iraqi parliament's rejection of an amendment to a law that forces children who have one parent who converted from Islam to be automatically considered a Muslim upon birth.
The Bishop asserts that the law discriminates against Christians and other religious minorities and doesn't give the child the ability to eventually choose his or her own faith. The changing of one's religious affiliation can be a difficult task considering accusations of apostasy, a serious offense under Islamic law, are generally hurled around when someone converts.
Christian legislators proposed an amendment to the law that would have given children the ability to choose their religious affiliation once they reach the age of 18, which prevents them from automatically being labeled as a Muslim against their will.
Although the measure received backing from members of a number of political parties and religious groups, the measure failed miserably when it came time for a vote. Only 51 members voted in favor of the amendment, while 137 members voted against it.
Al-Qas recently spoke with Asia News and explained that the parliament's failure to amend the law will have serious "repercussions in Kurdistan," which has not yet been affected by the legislation.
"Once it was possible to change religion at the age of 18," al-Qas explained. "Now that is outlawed. This is a serious decision by the government in Baghdad behind which one finds fanatical groups and extremist groups that did their utmost to ensure that parliament would reject the amendment."
With the rise of the barbaric Islamic State terrorist organization having driven hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities from their homes and out of the country, al-Qas feels that the law that imposes Islam on children of converts only further promotes the idea that non-Muslims are not welcome in Iraq.
"We are facing a genocide in a country that knows only death and liberticidal laws," al-Qas asserted, adding that there is "neither freedom nor respect" in Iraq.
Al-Qas, who along with his priests provide humanitarian support to Christian refugees from Mosul who have been pushed out of their homes by IS, added that the law only encourages the remaining Christians to leave the country. He said the law will accelerate the process of Christianity's extinction from the biblical region.
"It is not just a political project. There are also traces of an Islam that wants to eliminate minorities — a faith that prevents you from coming back or change if you are Muslim. If you change your religion, it will be forever. Such a mentality has nothing that is human," al-Qas asserted. "Not only have they taken homes and property from Christians, but now they also want to take their willpower, hope, freedom of religion and freedom to choose for the future."
Earlier in the week, Canon Andrew White, who was the only Anglican vicar in Iraq before he fled the country after his life was threatened by IS, told Christian Today that the persecution being faced by Iraqi Christians today is the worst ordeal Christians in Iraq have ever had to endure.
"The big question is, will there be Christians in the Middle East in five years?" White wondered. "Christianity will probably survive. It has been through so much. But this is the hardest thing it has been through."