Skip to comments.Radical Muslims Spark Fear in Iraqi Christians
Posted on 12/15/2003 8:41:31 AM PST by KriegerGeist
Radical Muslims Spark Fear in Iraqi Christians
By George Thomas
CBN News Sr. Reporter
December 15, 2003
Since the end of the first Gulf War, the Christian population of Iraq has dropped from nearly two million to about 800,000.
CBN.com BAGHDAD -- November was a dangerous month for Christians in Iraq. A key Christian judge was killed in Mosul, bombs were found at two Christian schools, and many Christian students and families received notes to convert to Islam, or else.
Ismail Youssef, a prominent Christian judge, was assassinated outside his home in the northern city of Mosul, on November 4th. Several days later, authorities defused a cluster of bombs found at two Christian schools, one in Mosul and another in Baghdad.
Barnabus Fund, a group that tracks Christian persecution around the world, says the students also got notices to become Muslims or face death.
Then, in late November, many Christian families across Iraq received a threatening letter from the country's main Shia group. It warned Christians that if they didn't convert to Islam, they would be raped, kidnapped, tortured or killed. ["religion of peace"]
Today a radical Islamic movement is spreading across Iraq, and it has the Christian community on edge. Samir Abdu-al Ahad, of the Presbyterian Church in Baghdad, said, "We are afraid of the future."
Since the end of the first Gulf War, the Christian population of Iraq has dropped from nearly two million to about 800,000. Today, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, Christians in communities like Baghdad, are increasingly under pressure.
An Iraqi Christian woman named Eman commented, "One day when I was returning home on the bus, a group of Muslim men approached me and ordered me to cover my head. They told me that if I didn't put on a veil, they would slaughter me. Can you imagine this? I am a Christian and we don't believe in wearing the veil."Another Iraqi Christian, Ameer, said, "We used to rent a house from a Muslim family. But days after [the] war, the Muslim landlord came to the house and told us to leave. He and a group of men forced us out of the house. They threw our furniture and all our belongings out on the street. It was so embarrassing. Now I have no home and no where to go. My family is very poor."
Samir is an Iraqi Christian who, like many others, greeted the fall of Saddam Hussein with hope of a brighter future. But now that hope is eclipsed by fear.
Samir said he is concerned about the future because, "The fundamentalists movements could be the worst. Iranian-type of government, many people are talking about this kind of government, so this is what we are afraid of."
Several loudspeakers were then mounted in the direction of the church. Bishop Warduni stated: "This is very unsettling. During our church services, we can hear the Muslim call to prayer and it is very loud. It is frightening a lot of the Christians. Many are afraid to even come to the church. Attendance is very low."
A church member added, "It is very difficult to come to church and to see this mosque here. They are in our face. Why are they blaring their Muslim prayers right in front of our church and during our services? They are trying to intimidate us Christians."
What many Christians worry most about is the growing Shiite influence.Eman begged, "Please protect us from the Shiite Muslims. They are very dangerous, they will kill us Christians. We don't want them in the new Iraqi government."
This appears unlikely. Iraq experts believe the Shiites, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population, will probably dominate the interim government next year.
After decades of religious and political repression, the Shia are suddenly feeling their time in history has come. But Christians say that a large number in the Shia community are prone to religious intolerance.
The Bush administration has not said yet whether religious freedom is a non-negotiable requirement in a post-Saddam Iraq.
Some warn that Iraq is well on its way to becoming an Islamic state, void of any religious freedom.
Dr. Noah Feldman, a close advisor to Paul Bremer, the American administrator in Baghdad, recently told a British newspaper that the United States is failing to create a secular, pro-Western Iraq. According to Feldman, Iraq is bound to embrace Sharia, a harsh form of Islamic law, as the basis of its constitution.
He says that, "The end constitutional product is very likely to make many people in the U.S. government unhappy. It's not going to look the way people imagined it looking. Any democratically elected Iraqi government is unlikely to be secular, and unlikely to be pro-Israel. And frankly, moderately unlikely to be pro-American."
This is music to the ears of Sheikh Hadi Hussein Al-Ghazragi. He heads a prominent Shiite fundamentalist group that's gaining support across Iraq. According to the Sheikh, "The Islamic law must be the foundation of this country and constitution. All the citizens, including Christians, Jews and others who belong to different religions, must follow the strict rules of Islam."
A view shared by a majority of Iraqis polled in a recent State Department survey. But any form of Sharia law in the constitution would be bad news for Christians, who make up three percent of the population.
Still, Iraqi Christians, who under Saddam were allowed to worship but not share their faith publicly or proselytize, now sense an opportunity.
Hartinian, an Iraqi pastor, said, "Despite the pressures we face as Christians from these fanatical groups, we see this as an opportunity and an open door to share the message of Christ to all people."
Several Iraqi Christians are boldly conducting secret street evangelism projects. Sources tell CBN News that Arabic versions of the Bible are being highly sought after.
Hartinian commented, "My prayer is that the church will expand the walls of the church, the church is not only inside the walls of this church, but is also outside the walls. We know that sharing this message is incredibly difficult, but this is what we believe in and as long as we have Christ with us, this is the day of salvation. This is the day the God is going to touch the people of Iraq."
Today, Christians in Iraq are suspended between hope and fear. Hope, that with the fall of Saddam Hussein, they will gain greater religious freedom. But also fear, because they are nervous about what a new Iraqi regime would mean.
Did our soldiers sacrifice their blood and lives fighting to liberate a people that will in turn brutalize and rape and murder Christians. The deaths and blood spilled by our soldiers is like the blood of the martyrs. Many, if not most are Christians. I pray that they did not die to liberate and set free the demons of anti-Christ to destroy the Body of Christ in Iraq.
Religion of Peace on the March ping!
Not surprising, since they've effectively purged Iraq of Jews.
LOL ! That is a great pic ...
My prayer also; much to think about.
So what did Saddam do to stop the extremist muslims from persecuting Christians?Were they just too scared to threaten Christians before?Surely there can be some way of ensuring secularism besides ruling with an iron fist.
Are you saying that 1.2 million Christians have left Iraq since March? That # seems awfully high to me.
The news article that I saw, (also from where this posting came from) did not say what happened to them. They could have fled, converted to Islam or are still there, but just gone into hiding.