Skip to comments.Christians Flee Genocide As Fear Sweeps Iraq
Posted on 01/08/2005 4:12:06 PM PST by blam
Christians flee genocide as fear sweeps Iraq
By Jack Fairweather at St Matthew's Monastery near Mosul
One of the most ancient monasteries in the world, St Matthew's, stands on a barren mountainside in northern Iraq, its last inhabitant a crusty old Syrian Orthodox priest. Nestled between sandstone crags with views of the hills around ancient Nineveh, now called Mosul, it looks like the final redoubt of the Christian world.
Seven thousand monks used to worship here; now there is just one, Father Ada Qadr al-Kars.
St Matthew's Syrian Orthodox Monastery was founded in the fourth century AD
This thinning of the ranks has taken centuries, he said, but in the valleys Iraq's Christian community, targeted with especial ferocity by Islamic extremists for the past year, is disappearing rapidly.
Churches have been bombed, priests kidnapped and Christian neighbourhoods subjected to random shootings, the terrorists' revenge for the community's shared religion with the "Christian" invaders.
According to Church leaders, some 300,000 Christians - roughly a quarter of the population - have fled their homes since the US-led invasion.
It is too early to speak of a humanitarian crisis, with many from the community, one of Iraq's more affluent, able to leave the country in civilised fashion or find shelter in the Kurdish-controlled north. But in the minds of Church leaders there is little doubt as to the nature of the exodus.
"It's genocide. You can see it with your own eyes," said Bishop Putres Harbori, head of the Christian community in Dohuk, near the Turkish border, where 350 families have found sanctuary.
Many fear that Iraq's ancient Christian community is leaving for ever, some nostalgic for better times under Saddam Hussein. Life was good when the Ba'athists were in charge, said Paula Sliwa, 71, one of 60,000 Christians to flee Mosul in recent months.
He belongs to the Assyrian Church, one of several sects in the city tracing their history to Job preaching to the ungodly. He, his wife and five children used to live with 100 other families near the Shaleeka Cunta church on the western bank of the Euphrates.
Iraq's small Christian community has a history of collaboration with the powers-that-be in Baghdad, first with the British in the 1920s, then with Saddam's regime, which boasted the Christian Tariq Aziz as one of its most powerful leaders. Christians often worked in the luxury business, selling alcohol and running beauty parlours.
"I have a large house and two cars," said Mr Sliwa, formerly a well paid government official. "We never had any trouble." But the Christian community in Mosul has been shaken by a wave of vicious attacks, including five car bombs detonated outside churches, killing more than 20, in one month.
Anti-Christian graffiti was daubed on church walls and inflammatory CDs sold in the market. Regular gun attacks began in Christian areas of the city, with several priests kidnapped and told that, as Christians, they were on the side of the American invaders.
"We were used to living in hell," said Mr Sliwa. Then a neighbour told him that his two sons had been killed by the latest attack. "My son's car was 300 metres away. They were slumped in their seats, covered in blood," he said. "The terrorists had shot at any car in the neighbourhood, knowing they would kill Christians."
Mr Sliwa and the rest of his family fled to Angkawr, one of a number of Christian communities in the Kurdish-protected north. That evening his house in Mosul was broken into and ransacked.
Stories like his are common in Angkawr, where 150 families shelter from the oppression and fear that forced them to flee homes in Mosul, Baghdad and Basra.
They say a new breed of al-Qa'eda-inspired terrorists, rather than the former Ba'athists, are behind the attacks. Iraqi police are powerless to protect the community, say families, and US forces rarely intervene, not wanting to be seen to be siding with Christians and thereby exposing the troops to more violence.
For their part, Christian leaders in Iraq oscillate between calling the attacks "ethnic cleansing" and stressing that Christians are suffering along with others in Iraq.
Angkawr, a town of 35,000 people, is defended by guards and concrete barriers. Residents, along with the refugees, want to leave the country as fast as possible, with Syria, Jordan, Europe and America the popular destinations.
Saed Alexis, a local business leader, said: "There is not a person who wouldn't leave Iraq if they could. In five years there will be no one left."
This tragedy was, alas, eminently predictable. "Democracy" in the Mideast means Islamic rule.
Wow. I'm impressed by your links tragic as they are. The article I read confirmed the huge exodus by Christians, out of fear, from Iraq. They are subject to threats and violence that is clearly religiously motivated.
Though I very much support the war in Iraq, I am very afraid of whether the new government will be religiously tolerant.
If there is a non-Islamic constitution guaranteeing religious freedom and equality, there is hope that these kinds of acts will be controlled by the government once they are able to control the violence.
Bump for Post No. 19
Tarik Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister, is a Christian in a top job. I think what we all overlooked was that Saddam was a SECULAR dictator who modelled himself on Stalin. This may start a fecal tsunami, but the Osama-Saddam links never were credible to me for that reason. Many countries have had similar dictators -- who focused on modernization at the expense of ethnic and religious loyalties -- who are today seen as unfortunate, but necessary, players in their country's history: Ataturk in Turkey, Porfirio Diaz in Mexico, Stalin, etc.
I'm sorry to say it looks as if we went into this war without even looking up Iraq in an encyclopedia.
Let them come here. We need more Christians and fewer Muslims.
Moonpie, it was happening before as well. Don't let anyone kid you.
We are near Sterling Heights, MI, the Chaldean capital of the state (which as you know is Arab Central). My daughter attended school with 5 Chaldean families and we had another in our Daisy troop. Seriously, every one of them was thrilled with the falling of Saddam. Every one of the mother's I talked to had family members missing.
They may be talking to a group of people that had it easy under Saddam but not all Christians did.
Sadly, USA are doing the same horror in Iraq they did in Iran long time ago: help the islamists take power.
So, of course, the Christians of Iraq have to flee before it's too late.They know what tomorrow will look like..
I dont think we are going to let the islamists take over. I think our goal is for a government similar to that of Qatar or Kuwait.
I wish you're right..
I hope our goals are better than that. Those countries are Kingdoms. I thought we were shooting for representational government with constitutional protections.
Also religious freedom in Kuwait is minimal.
The law prohibits organized religious education for religions other than Islam, although this law is not enforced rigidly. Informal religious instruction occurs inside private homes and on church compounds without government interference; however, there were reports that government inspectors from the Awqaf Ministry periodically visit public and private schools outside of church compounds to ensure that religious teaching other than Islam does not takes place. The Roman Catholic Church has requested that Catholic students be allowed to study the catechism separately during the period in which Muslim students receive mandatory instruction in Islam. During the period covered by this report, the Government still had not responded to the request.
Although there is a small community of Christian citizens, a law passed in 1980 prohibits the naturalization of non-Muslims; however, citizens who were Christians before 1980 (and children born to families of such citizens since that date) are allowed to transmit their citizenship to their children.
Further women are treated like third class citizens (one male witness equals three women) but that may at last be changing for the better since women have finally been granted the vote. welcome to the 21st Century.
Treatment of Israel is a whole other matter. Suffice it to say that a reporter from the Jerusalem Post who wanted to cover the Iraq war as an embed had to be snuck into Kuwait through US Press credentials. Kuwait forbade Israeli reporters from coming into the country.