Iraqi Christians attend an Easter Mass at Chaldean Catholic church in Amman,
April 15, 2012. Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled to neighboring Jordan
following a spate of bombings that targeted churches in Iraqi cities in the
past few years. (photo by REUTERS/Ali Jarekji)
By: Nassif al-Jabouri. Translated from Azzaman (Iraq).
Everyone knows that Iraqi Christians, along with other groups, make up the essence and roots of Iraq that extend deep into history. They established this country, lived in it and enjoyed its wealth. They witnessed both good times and hardships since the devastating eras until the United States occupation in 2003.
On another note, the former regime, which lasted from 1979 to 2003, enjoyed wars and taking risks. Saddam Hussein’s regime dragged the country into a dark tunnel since 1980, a year that witnessed the start of the eight-year war with Iran and was followed by the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
The war on Kuwait led to the international coalition war against Iraq in 1991, and as a result both the United States and the former regime decided to impose an unjust siege on the country.
The Iraqi people, including the Christians, were forced to pay the high price of hunger, disease and death while the world’s conscience took a vacation.
The greatest catastrophe befell the Iraqi people in 2003 when the US and Britain invaded Mesopotamia. The barbaric US invasion of Iraq in 2003 had violated all sanctity by destroying the nation and killing its people. US bombs, which are banned under international law, targeted all Iraqis and did not discriminate between Muslims and Christians. Furthermore, the sectarian war that rose after the occupation of Iraq targeted everyone, including Christians mainly in Baghdad and Mosul.
According to 2005 statistics, Christians comprise about 2% of the total population of Iraq, which amounts to 33 million. For a long time, they have been residing in major cities, such as Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, Irbil, Al-Halla, and others.
The tragedies of Iraqi Muslims and Christians started to further unfold in 2003 with the arrival of the US invasion army that destroyed the structural system of the nation. It created a new regime that it would never desire for itself, characterized by political, economic and military systems from the Middle Ages, present amid a system of rule dominated by the influence of sects and ethnicities.
This regime — or, rather, the absence of a regime — has created massive security vacuum that paved the way for the outbreak of chaos in the country. This was followed by the drafting of a distorted constitution that led to dividing the Iraqi people into three groups based on ethnic and sectarian affiliations, while leaving the fate of other key social components — namely Christians, Turkmens, the Sabeans and others — up in the air.
The devastation of the Iraqi economy by the US war machine resulted in failed industrial and agricultural sectors, which were looted by gangs supported by the invading forces. What added insult to injury was the decision made by the US ruler in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, to dissolve the Iraqi army.
His decision was supported by Iraqi politicians who supported the US occupation. The dissolution of the army created so much chaos and allowed the emergence and revival of militias, extremists and organized criminal gangs. It also led to the formation of incompetent police services and army.
The aforementioned catastrophic transformations turned the situation into total chaos. National laws were completely abandoned by the occupation. The love for the nation had been devastated by the former regime while the occupation army pounded the last nail in its coffin. The law of the jungle was governing Iraq, in which those who supported America, and the parties and militias that were working for its troops, were freely wreaking havoc in Iraq.
Back then, the absence of laws paved the way for a civil war. Following this heinous war that took place between 2006 and 2008, Iraqi society was torn into pieces as many innocent civilians were killed. The aftermath of this war allowed the spread of organized crime and kidnap operations targeting Shiites and Sunnis. Those kidnap operations also targeted weak minorities, such as the Christians, Turkmens, Sabeans, Yezidis and others, who lacked power to defend themselves.
Obviously, churches, as well as mosques and Hussainiyat [Shiite funeral homes] were targeted by the arbitrary terrorist operations that did not discriminate between religions, or between innocent and guilty individuals. The Christian community could not exercise their religious rituals that are accepted in principle by the Holy Quran and the followers of Prophet Mohammad, peace and prayers be upon him.
As a result, many churches closed their doors to the public and only a few remained; those that did resembled military bases due to the tight security amid threats of acts of terrorism.
Fear became the dominant force in society, which united Christians and their Muslim brothers. Unfortunately, local media outlets along with the politicians increased tensions in society.
On the other hand, the militias, some parties and the organized criminal gangs were concerned with collecting illegal money. They were kidnapping, killing or imprisoning individuals and then blackmailing the families of victims to pay thousands of dollars in return — regardless of the identity of the persons. Christians paid the price dearly due to this dirty business.
Gangs and those affiliated with them were widely targeting the Christian community, for it did not have a militia or an army defending it and solely relied on the government to protect it, at a time when the government was incapable of even protecting itself.
For example, the gangs and militias used political intimidation and terrorism against the Christians residing in Al-Dawrah city, one of the suburbs of Baghdad, by threatening to blow up their houses if they do not promptly abandon them. These families were forced to sell their houses at the cheapest prices to the gangs and militias that had threatened them. Then, these criminals sold the same houses for ridiculously high prices allowing them to gain illegal money after usurping the property of others.
This disgusting business was widely practiced in Al-Karradah, Karadat Mariam and other Iraqi cities.
Attempts aimed at ridding Iraq of its original Christian population by local forces and some European countries would never solve the problem, on the contrary, it will aggravate it. They will also deepen sectarianism and intolerance, allowing racists, militias, criminal gangs and the corrupt to sabotage the country and impose the law of force, instead of enforcing the rule of law.
According to Louis Sako, the Archbishop of Kirkuk, foreign countries, including neighboring ones, should leave Iraq alone without interfering in its internal affairs. He adds if they want to help Iraq they should help all Iraqis without discrimination between sects and religions. He says further it is necessary that we isolate religions from the political polarization and protect them from being used by the politicians to achieve their selfish goals.
We will be capable of succeeding if Christians and Muslims join ranks.
Archbishop Sako discussed the struggle over power, money and government positions between the Sunnis and Shiites and between the Arabs and Kurds that led to booby-trapped cars, suicide attacks and blind terrorist operations. He then wondered why forces entrenched the Christian community in their struggle especially since they were not competing with anyone over power and did not have militias carrying out kidnap operations and looting money. Sako went on to say the Christian community is not threatening anyone and seeks to live in peace and harmony.
From a political point of view, it is important for those who have a vision for Iraq to realize that Christians cannot be considered minorities, especially since these are people who love this country and would do anything to defend it. Political majority and minority have nothing to do with religion, sect, ethnicity or gender.
This is because politics is established and led by civil parties united or divided due to a certain political, economic and social programs, and then are chosen by the people to be in the majority or the minority with disregard to gender or sect — namely Shiite, Sunni, Christian, Sabean — or ethnicity — namely Arab, Kurd and Turkmen.
In conclusion, history showed that a group of Iraqi Muslim leaders heading secular and Islamist parties have been paving the way for the US occupiers since the 1990s to invade their country and then stood behind their tanks. Also, history showed us that there is not a single Christian leader who collaborated with the US occupiers or aided them in their criminal mission to tear down the country.
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/culture/2012/11/christians-in-iraq-fall-foul-of-successive-conflicts.html#ixzz2BvLhmvQi
About this Article
The author describes the role of Iraqi Christians in Iraq’s history, the persecution of the community under Saddam Hussein and by Islamist gangs, and the need for Christians to play a role in Iraq’s future.
Publisher: Azzaman (Iraq)
Author: Nassif al-Jabouri
Published on: Tue, Nov 6, 2012
Translated on: Sat, Nov 10, 2012
Translated by: Nola Abboud