Persecuted Christians Flee
Many American troops went to Iraq and died in Iraq. Because of other news monopolizing our airways, we don’t hear much about Iraq anymore. If we truly understand what is happening with our fellow-believers around the world, we would be astonished at the persecution of Christian world-wide in their everyday lives. Our freedom of religion in the U.S. is often taken for granted because we are used to always having it without the threat of persecution.
At the end of this post, we will see the history of Iraq’s destruction in places like Mosul, aired by 60 Minutes researchers in 2015. This gives the results of great devastation to an entire country…regardless of their religious beliefs. Even now, some parts of the country are trying to rebuild, but it is a long process, costing millions of dollars that they mostly don’t have. There has been news that there is an effort to rebuild devastated Mosul “A project with the title “reviving the spirit of Mosul” has hired locals of all faiths, without regard to whether the builders are Christian, Muslim or Yazidis, to work together to rebuild the landmark al-Nuri mosque, and the historic al-Saa’a and al-Tahera churches.” (BBC News)
In the summer of 2014, ISIS embarked on a campaign of genocide in northern Iraq’s Sinjar region, intent on killing, capturing and forcibly converting members of the ancient religion, Yazidis, they considered infidels. Thousands of women were taken into sexual slavery. (NPR Jane Arraf)
The writer of the following article, from the Arab Weekly, tells us what is happening with the Christians in 2020 and 2021… that the feeling of alienation is so strong, many are trying to emigrate to any part of the world where they can worship freely:
“Iraq declared ISIS defeated three years ago, but “threats, kidnappings, extortion and deaths still persist,” said Yonadam Kanna, a leading Christian politician.
BAGHDAD – The bells of St. Joseph’s Chaldean Cathedral echo across Baghdad, signalling the start of Mass for the dwindling congregation that has stayed in the scarred Iraqi capital against all odds.Red ropes block off every other row to enforce social distancing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but there aren’t enough worshippers to fill the church in any case.…
A few hundred thousand Christians are left in Iraq, where a US-led invasion in 2003 paved the way for bloody sectarian warfare that devastated the country’s historic and diverse Christian communities. Like Mariam, the 53-year-old deacon of St. Joseph’s Cathedral preferred to identify himself only by his first name, Nael.
“My father, mother and siblings emigrated after 2003. I’m the only one left in Iraq, and I stayed because I was hoping the situation would get better,” he said. But after 35 years serving at St. Joseph’s and watching the parish shrink year by year, Nael has little hope.
“It used to be full even on regular weekdays,” he recalled. “But there’s been a drop in numbers and ongoing emigration in the last three or four years, especially from this parish,” he lamented.
As hardliners fought each other starting in 2006, Iraq’s ancient Christian communities — Assyrian, Armenian, Chaldean, Protestant and more — were directly targeted.
One of the most horrific attacks was in 2010, when gunmen took hostage and eventually killed dozens of Christians at the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Then in 2014, the “Islamic State” (ISIS) extremist group swept across Nineveh province, the heartland of Iraq’s minorities. Christians — but also the esoteric Yazidis, Shia Turkmen and other communities — streamed out of their homes as the jihadists closed in, or were forced to convert under their rule. There are no reliable statistics on the number of Christians who fled Iraq during these consecutive waves of bloodshed.
According to William Warda, co-founder of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, Christians left in Iraq number up to 400,000, down from 1.5 million in 2003. Their absence is stark. Churches across Baghdad have shuttered, including the Holy Trinity Church in the Baladiyat district, closed to regular services for four years. At the Armenian Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a terracotta structure in the Karrada area, a rusted lock has barred entry since 2007.
The churches that have remained open are surrounded by a labyrinth of concrete blast walls and security forces. The southern Baghdad district of Dora was once home to a thriving community of 150,000 Christians, including doctors, businessmen and cafe owners, Warda said. Now, “there are only 1,000 left,” he told AFP.
Iraq declared ISIS defeated three years ago, but “threats, kidnappings, extortion and deaths still persist,” said Yonadam Kanna, a leading Christian politician. While Iraq’s constitution ostensibly affords the same level of protection to all communities, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako said de facto prejudice was locking Christians out of society.
“There’s no direct pressure on Christians today, but there’s day-to-day discrimination. If you’re Christian, there’s no place for you in state institutions,” the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church said. “It’s caused by corruption and it leads to emigration.” That has eroded the feeling of belonging, some told AFP.
“There’s a sense among Christians that the country is becoming more conservative, and that Christians — or even secular Muslims — can no longer live in it,” Warda said. …
For others, it is a matter of livelihoods. Iraq has been hit hard by the twin shocks of an oil price collapse and the novel coronavirus pandemic, leading to the worst fiscal crisis the country has seen in decades…”
We pray for the persecuted Christians of Iraq and other parts of the world…that they may be steadfast in their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure; they will have no far; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor. (Psalm 112:6-9).
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