"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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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|