You don’t have to be a member of the far-left to question what has happened in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003. During Holy Week, we should all consider the plight of Iraqi Christians and their possible extinction. This is something we can do something about. We should demand that the White House immediately order U.S. troops in Iraq to protect the remnants of the Christian community.
There were nearly a million Christians in Iraq before the war and about half of them have left the country. Dozens of Christian churches have been attacked, bombed or destroyed and some Christian children have reportedly been crucified by Islamic terrorists. The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was recently kidnapped and murdered. Some Christians left in Iraq don’t go to church for fear of being targeted for death. Some priests don’t wear clerical garb for the same reason. Pope Benedict XVI has pleaded with Bush to do something about the plight of Iraqi Christians.
In another notorious incident, on October 11, 2006, Fr. Paulos Eskandar, a Syrian Orthodox priest, was abducted in Iraq and beheaded. His arms and legs were also hacked off.
Bush should immediately pick up the phone and tell David Petraeus, Commanding General of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq, to use the “surge” of U.S. forces to defend the Christians left in that war-torn country. If they cannot for some reason be defended, then let the Christians be escorted by our troops out of Iraq to a place, like Crawford, Texas, where they can begin new lives.
Does Bush want to go down in history as the U.S. President who launched a war that resulted in the destruction of the Christian community in Iraq?
We know, of course that we can’t count on the liberal media to cover this unfolding catastrophe. They are interested in the war as a political issue that can usher the Democrats into power in the White House.
So let’s call on conservative commentators and bloggers to stop their knee-jerk cheerleading for the Iraq War policy long enough to seriously examine how the new and “democratic” Iraq has become a hellhole for Christians.
In a statement about the death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, Bush sounded tough, saying, “I send my condolences to the Chaldean community and the people of Iraq. I deplore the despicable act of violence committed against the Archbishop. The terrorists will continue to lose in Iraq because they are savage and cruel. Their utter disregard for human life, demonstrated by this murder and by recent suicide attacks against innocent Iraqis in Baghdad and innocent pilgrims celebrating a religious holiday, is turning the Iraqi people against them.
We will continue to work with the Iraqi government to protect and support civilians, irrespective of religious affiliation.”
But what exactly is being done to protect Christians in Iraq?
Rosie Malek-Yonan, an Assyrian Christian who has testified before Congress on this issue, says the Bush Administration has become a “silent accomplice” to an “incipient genocide.” She asks, “Will President Bush have the courage to take off his blinders or will he continue to stumble in the dark until his final day in office?” She suggests that the Bush Administration is failing to deal with this embarrassing disaster because it is afraid of having the United States, a perceived “Christian country,” being accused as “helping one of its own” in a Muslim country.
Is it not tragic that U.S. troops, many of them Christian, are not being specifically deployed to help their fellow believers in Iraq?
In his speech on Wednesday, Bush said that the U.S. is “helping the people of Iraq establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East.” But no matter what has been accomplished in Iraq, it is not a democracy that benefits Christians and other religious minorities.
Earlier this year, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom drew attention to a coordinated series of bomb attacks against churches and monasteries in Iraq. It reported, “At least six people were reportedly wounded in seven separate attacks in Baghdad and Mosul as Christians were celebrating Christmas and the Epiphany on Jan. 6; three days later, bombs targeted three churches in Kirkuk. The attacks were the latest to target Iraq’s shrinking non-Muslim population, many of whose members have fled the country in the wake of violence directed against their communities.”
The Commission says that Christians and other non-Muslims in Iraq face “grave conditions” in Iraq in the form of violence from terrorists and “pervasive discrimination and marginalization” at the hands of the national and regional governments and Muslim militia groups.
Bush calls Iraq a democracy, but its Constitution, crafted with U.S. help, says no law should be contrary to Islam. In Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO troops are desperately propping up another Muslim government, a 23-year-old Afghan journalism student by the name of Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh has been sentenced to death for allegedly distributing literature violating the tenets of Islam. The material had to do with human rights for women.
In Iraq, according to the State Department’s 2007 International Religious Freedom Report, many Muslim holy days have been declared national holidays. However, Christmas and Easter are not recognized as national holidays.
The report says, “There were allegations that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) engaged in discriminatory behavior against religious minorities. Christians living north of Mosul claimed that the KRG confiscated their property without compensation and began building settlements on their land. During the reporting period, Assyrian Christians alleged that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)-dominated judiciary continued to discriminate routinely against non-Muslims and failed to enforce judgments in their favor. Despite such allegations, many non-Muslims fled to Northern Iraq from the more volatile areas in the middle and southern parts of the country, where pressures to conform publicly to narrow interpretations of Islamic teaching were greater. However, migration statistics were not available.”
Under the category of forced religious conversion, the report says, “Christians also reported that Islamic extremists warned Christians living in Baghdad’s Dora district to convert, leave, or be killed.”
Islamic extremists in Iraq have also been kidnapping Christians, including at least nine priests, for ransom. The report adds, “Christian leaders inside and outside of the country reported that members of their Baghdad community, especially in the district of Dora, received threat letters demanding that Christians leave or be killed.” As a result, more Christian families are fleeing.
In other incidents, the report says, “Chaldean clergyman reported in April 2007 that ‘in the last 2 months many Churches have been forced to remove their crosses from their domes.’ For example, Muslim extremists climbed onto the roof and removed the cross of the Church of Saint George in Baghdad. In the Chaldean Church of Saint John, in the Dora district of Baghdad, the parishioners decided to move the cross to a safer place after repeated threats. The Chaldean Patriarchate in January 2007 officially transferred Babel College, the major Chaldean seminary and the only Christian theological university in the country, from the Dora district in Baghdad to Ankawa near Irbil after months of closure following kidnappings and threats against Christians. Between September and December 2006, the rector and vice rector of the seminary were kidnapped in Baghdad; both were released after a week.”
The report says, “Non-Muslims, particularly Christians, complained of being isolated by the Muslim majority because of their religious differences. Despite their statistically proportional representation in the National Assembly, many non-Muslims stated they were disenfranchised and their interests not adequately represented. The combination of discriminatory hiring practices by members of the majority Muslim population, attacks against non-Muslim businesses, and the overall lack of rule of law, have also had a detrimental economic impact on the non-Muslim community and contributed to the departure of significant numbers of non-Muslims from the country.”
“The battle in Iraq is noble, it is necessary, and it is just,” Bush said in his speech on the anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. But how can this be if it leads to the destruction of the Christian community in Iraq? It is an absolute outrage for this to be occurring under the auspices of a conservative Republican President who claims to be a born-again Christian.
Pope Benedict XVI can be expected to raise this issue with Bush when he comes to the U.S. for a visit in April. We can raise it with the President now.
You can contact the White House here.
Please, Mr. President, do something immediately before more Iraqi Christians are targeted on Good Friday and Easter for practicing their faith. Order our troops into the field in order to protect Christian churches and believers before more lives are lost.