2006 October 23 Monday
Christians Flee Iraq When They Can

The Islamic fundamentalist attacks on Christians in Iraq have intensified after Pope Benedicts critical (but accurate) remarks about Islam.

"Their leader [the Pope] has verbally abused and offended our religion and the Prophet. Unfortunately, he did not analyse the consequences of his speech. Our country is an Islamic land and they [Christians] will have to rely on the Pope's charity from now on," said Abu Jaffar, an Islamic extremist from Muhammad's Army, a Sunni insurgent group.

Carlo and her family have lost three of their relatives over the past two weeks and she received a threat on Monday.

Probably the only section of Iraq where Iraqi Christians have a chance is in Kurdistan. But I'm guessing ultimately the US government will exit Iraq in a way that shafts the Kurds. That'll make life even worse for Iraqi Christians in Kurdistan.

Two thirds of the Christians in Baghdad's Al Dora district have fled.

Up to a dozen centres of Catholic life and worship, including a seminary, a monastery, several religious houses and at least five churches have been closed in Baghdad's Al Dora district, known as 'The Vatican of Iraq'.

About two-thirds of the 900 Christian families living there have been forced to leave as a result of Sunni militants taking control of the district and carrying out ethnic cleansing along strict religious lines.

Estimates for the number of Christians who have left Iraq since the US invasion run as high as over 100,000.

Estimates of the resulting Christian exodus vary from the tens of thousands to more than 100,000, with most heading for Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

The number of Christians who remain is also uncertain. The last Iraqi census, in 1987, counted 1.4 million Christians, but many left during the 1990’s when sanctions squeezed the country. Yonadam Kanna, the lone Christian member of the Iraqi Parliament, estimated the current Christian population at roughly 800,000, or about 3 percent of the population. A Chaldean Catholic auxiliary bishop, Andreos Abouna, told a British charity over the summer that there were just 600,000 Christians left, according to the Catholic News Service.

At the Church of the Virgin Mary, Father Khossaba showed a visitor the baptism forms for parishioners leaving the country who need proof of their religious affiliation for visas. Some weeks he has filled out 50 of the forms, he said, and some weeks more.

A town in the Kurdish zone is considered to be one of the safer places of refuge for Christians fleeing Arab cities in Iraq.

About a thousand Christian families, from Mosul, Baghdad, Basra and elsewhere, have taken refuge in Ain Kawa, a small town outside the Kurdish city of Erbil, which has become an oasis for Christians, said the Rev. Yusuf Sabri, a priest at St. Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church there.

The US ought to set up a Christian safe zone in Iraq and help the Iraqi Christians to move to it. The safe zone probably ought to be in Kurdistan.

Christians in Kurdistan would like autonomy for Christian areas.

Christian members of Iraq’s Kurdistan province parliament are calling for autonomy for Christian areas in the north of the country, according to the London-based daily Al-Hayyat.

It is a democratic necessity that areas inhabited by a Christian majority should be autonomous, MP Kalawiz Ilda said.

Iraqi Christians in Jordan aren't allowed to work or get public benefits.

Conditions for Iraqi Christians in Jordan are poor. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has documented the Assyrian Christians' plight in Jordan as among the worst in the country: Refugees can't work, get educated or receive any other public benefit.

"Iraqi forced migrants have created inside Jordan a group of deprived, invisible migrants," the 2002 reports states. "And the country is unwilling to target any international aid for Iraq refugees," adding that, "they probably fear a relief program would improve the migrants' social condition, attracting other Iraqis."

Jordan, acting against the policy of the United Nations, "offers Iraqis no potential for long-term residency, forbids them to work and returns some back to Iraq, against their will."

Some Christian Iraqis in Jordan have been trying to get into the US for months and even years. I say we deport non-citizen Muslims from the US and let in Iraqi Christians in their place.

Unlike other ethnic groups in Iraq the Christians have no militias to protect them.

Other ethnic and minority groups in the region often have militias to protect them from attacks, but the Christians are known to be exposed to attacks freely, reports the Barnabas Fund.

Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East.

Sadly, the plight of Iraq's Christians is not an isolated one in the Middle East. Iran's population has nearly doubled since the 1979 revolution, but, under a hostile regime, the number of Christians in the country has fallen from roughly 300,000 to 100,000. In 1948, Christians accounted for roughly 20 percent of the population of what was then Palestine; now, they are about 1.6 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

In Egypt, emigration among Coptic Christians is disproportionately high; many convert to Islam under pressure, and over the last few years, violence against the Christian community has taken many lives. Saudi Arabia's Wahabbi regime prohibits any form of Christian worship.

Curiously, the best destination for Iraqi Christians in the Middle East appears to be Syria. You know Syria. It is one of the other Middle Eastern countries which the neocons want to invade supposedly for Israel's benefit (though I suspect the Israelis realize that Assad's regime is the preferred lesser evil). Of course, if the US did invade that'd ruin the lives of Syrian and Iraqi Christians in Syria and many Christians in Syria would get killed when Muslim fundamentalists ceased to be restrained by the Assad family dictatorship.

Why should US soldiers get killed by Shias and Sunnis when the US soldiers are trying to protect Shias and Sunnis from each other? Why should the US help keep in power an Iraqi government whose militias kill Christians?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 October 23 10:01 PM  Mideast Iraq Exodus


Comments
Ned said at October 24, 2006 6:02 AM:

George W. Bush is a devout Christian. How tragic that his failed policies in the Middle East have caused such misery for the Christians of Iraq.

Chris said at October 24, 2006 9:30 AM:

Here's another related article from earlier this year:

http://www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20060403&s=kaplan040306

Chris said at October 24, 2006 9:34 AM:

Well copy and pasting doesn't seem to work.

You can google: christian iraq new republic

and should be able to read it.

TheOneWhoKnows said at October 24, 2006 12:04 PM:

Who cares. Let them kill each other. Not like Christianity is much better...the only thing is the West ignores most of what the bible says...when the West was not, it was not as harsh as Islam but pretty close, especially when the Catholic Church reigned supreme. Protestants were not much better with their witch burnings.

Bob Badour said at October 24, 2006 1:23 PM:

TheOneWhoKnows,

I did a search of the new testament, and I think I found 9 references to the verb to fight. None of the references was violent: most relating to "fighting the good fight". The New Testament is full of turn the other cheek and go forth unarmed compared to the Qur'an's smiting of necks and lopping of fingers.

The base texts of Christianity are as different from the base texts of Islam as night is from day.

Ned,

While the whole Iraq misadventure is tragic, I would call the effects on Iraqi Christians "predictable" and "appropriate" rather than tragic. After all, Bush drove the war partly out of his delusions that his personal relationship with Christ would prevent him from doing anything so evil and stupid as he has done, and many Christians in the US chose him precisely for those delusions.

TheOneWhoKnows said at October 24, 2006 1:29 PM:

Bob:

I believe you, but that is not the point. As long as you have religion you have something for people to group around that is based on illogic attitudes and behaviors that do to their ambiguity can be manipulated.

There were many wars between Christians that resulted in genocide in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Not even counting the Crusades.


My conclusion....any religion that say their is only one possible God and any religion that believes in proselytizing is bad. Pretty much any backward religion (which is all of them) created by hairy short people (ie Middle East) is bad.

Have you ever heard of any Buddhist committing genocide on non-Buddhist in the name of their religion? I have not. I can find you many many examples of Jews, Christians, and Muslims killing in mass in their name of their religion.

Bob Badour said at October 24, 2006 3:57 PM:

TheOneWhoKnows,

Buddhism is a marginal religion in most of the places where it is found. It was the state religion of one of the Mongol dynasties, and that dynasty persecuted muslims. However, I expect that reflects more on the specific Mongol tribe more than on Buddhism.

I am not sure I would call the wars in europe genocide. Certainly, from the printing press through the reformation and enlightenment, Europe had several centuries of religious bloodshed. The result of that bloodshed was a closer adherence of all Christian sects to the founding texts of Christianity. Increasing literacy and increasing availability forced the religion back to its founder's base message, which in the end is turn the other cheek and love your neighbour.

And it is exactly that pacifist message which underlies modern western values of tolerance, liberty and even multiculturalism.

Randall Parker said at October 24, 2006 5:36 PM:

TheOneWhoKnows,

People do not become more rational by rejecting religions. I can't remember which famous guy said this but someone said something along the lines of "When people cease to believe something they become open to believing anything". The idea is that take away religious belief and people embrace ideas far crazier than the belief in some diety.

We see with communism, fascism, and what is left of liberalism that absence of beliefs about the supernatural does not necessarily translate into rational beliefs about the world we live in. I think that is a result of evolutionarily produced limits in the capacity and tendency toward rationality. Plus, most people simply lack the intellectual capacity to understand the world in the ways physicists, neurobiologists, and evolutionary biologists see it.

Stephen said at October 24, 2006 8:34 PM:

Its not just selfish-god religions, rather the problem relates to a class of meme that infects susceptible people with a severe dose of absolute truth, while curing them of doubt and restraint.

Otherwise, I have no problem with individuals going around believing any old dumb thing - vive les differences etc.


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