ASSAILANTS triggered co-ordinated explosions outside five churches in Baghdad and Mosul yesterday, killing 11 people and wounding more than 50 in the first major assault on Iraq's Christian minority since the 15-month-old insurgency began.
The attacks against Iraq's 750,000-member Christian community seemed to confirm members' fears they might be targeted as suspected collaborators with US forces amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.
BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Assyrian Christian compound in Baghdad came under mortar attack yesterday, just over a week after bombers killed up to 15 Christians, news reports and church officials said.
Christians, who make up about 3 per cent of Iraq's population of 25 million, have traditionally kept a relatively low profile. A spate of attacks on alcohol sellers fuelled fears that Christians might be singled out for attack, but until Sunday, their places of worship had seemed safe.
The US military has warned that guerrillas opposed to the presence of more 160,000 foreign troops may try to deepen divisions between the country’s diverse religious communities in their campaign to destabilise Iraq.
"It is terrible and worrying because it is the first time that Christian churches are being targeted in Iraq," said the Vatican deputy spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini. "There seems to be an attempt to heighten tensions by trying to affect all social groups, including churches," he said.
I do not totally buy the "heighten tensions" explanations. My guess is that the Sunni radicals from outside of Iraq see Christians as a group that ought to either leave or totally submit to Muslim rule. They are telling the Christians to submit to Muslim rule and to have no ambitions or involvement in the current civil war for control of the country.
This illusory British "protection" proved fatal. In July 1933, a band of armed Assyrians tried to flee into neighboring Syria, and a border skirmish erupted. Iraqi authorities portrayed it as a full-blown insurrection by an Assyrian fifth column trying to bring back their imperialist protectors. That summer, Iraqi troops and armed Kurdish tribesmen led a massacre against Assyrians, culminating in the slaughter of hundreds of helpless Assyrian villagers on August 11. On their return to Baghdad, a cheering populace showered the troops with rose water and pelted them with flowers for their victory in crushing the Assyrian "revolt."
Today, Assyrians are again asking for a protected province in the north, as well as money to fund a hotline and three safe houses for victims of anti-Christian crimes. "If we can get a zone in the north of Iraq, the rest of Iraq is going to go to hell, but we can be safe," says Mr. Joseph. "Otherwise, Chicago and San Diego and Detroit had better get ready for another flood of Assyrian refugees."
Christians probably do need their own zone if they are to be safe in Iraq. But the United States is not yet ready to accept the idea of partition. So expect to see a rising wave of Christians fleeing Iraq for Syria, Canada, Australia, and the United States as fast they can manage to get permission to go to each of these places.
Note that Syria is a desired destination for fleeing Christians because Christians are far safer in Baathist-ruled Syria where most of the top leaders are members of the minority Muslim Alawite sect. I hope the neoconservatives do not manage to get their way and get the United States to overthrow the Alawites (as Richard Perle and David Frum advocate - and some see their advocacy as a sign of insanity - though I mostly attribute it to a mixture of foolishness and divided loyalties). If that happened then Syria would cease to be a safe haven for Arab Christians. At the very least the neocons must be made to agree that the United States should be willing to accept all Christian refugees from Syria if the Syrian government is overthrown. Or the neocons ought to admit to the necessity of partition if the United States is going to overthrow secular regimes in countries that suffer from deep tribal, religious, and ethnic splits. If we are going to destroy safe havens we ought to give people new safe places to live.
Also see my previous post Assyrian Christians Trying To Flee Iraq To Escape Muslim Rule.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 August 10 11:16 AM Mideast Iraq Freedom Rights|