More Than One Million Christians Have Left Iraq Since 2003

From Reinhard Backes:

In the 1st century AD the Christian faith was brought to Assyria and Mesopotamia, probably by the apostles Thomas and Jude. On what is now the territory of Iraq Christians represented the majority of the population for centuries. Only after the conquests by Arab-Islamic military commanders from the mid-7th century on did they gradually become a minority. Between the 13th and 16th centuries Christians were persecuted, were the victims of occasional massacres and under the Ottomans they were demoted to the status of second-class citizens. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 the region, which had been occupied by Great Britain, was assigned by the League of Nations to the United Kingdom as a British mandate. British influence remained even when the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1924 and was then renamed Iraq. Without giving up their military presence, the British officially granted Iraq its independence in 1932. After a coup d’état and the murder of the last King Feisal II Iraq was made a republic in 1958. A more recent coup ten years later brought the socialist Baath Party to power; as from 1979 it was led by Saddam Hussein.

After the political upheaval in the neighbouring country of Iran the relationship between the two states deteriorated considerably. In 1980 Iraq finally launched a military attack on Iran. The 1st Gulf War ended in 1988. In August 1990 Iraq occupied the neighbouring state of Kuwait. The UN Security Council demanded that the troops be withdrawn. Since the regime refused to do this, allied military forces led by the USA launched the 2nd Gulf War in January 1991. In a few weeks Iraq suffered a crushing defeat, and it was forced to leave Kuwait, recognise its independence and pay reparations.

At the beginning of March 1991 the Shi’ite Muslims and Kurds in Iraq rose up against the regime of Saddam Hussein, but he crushed the uprising with much bloodshed. The 3rd Gulf War waged by US and British forces in March 2003 ended with the fall of the dictator and occupation of Iraq. The USA had given as justification for the war the production of weapons of mass destruction by the regime. Even after the end of the war the US administration failed to produce any evidence of this.

According to the 2005 constitution Iraq is today a democratic, parliamentary and federal republic. The state religion and basis for the law is Islam. The parliament elects the national president for four years; a one-time re-election is possible. The second chamber, the Council of Union, is made up of representatives from the provinces and regions, which have extensive autonomy. The construction of the federal and legal system has not yet been completed, however. Freedom of assembly, the press and expression apply subject to observance of public order and morality. Work on the draft constitution and voting on the constitution have been accompanied by conflicts. Sunni groups expressed reservations, then boycotted the proceedings and finally also the vote on the draft. The north Iraqi province of Niniveh, with a majority of Sunnis, Kurds and Christians, rejected the constitution. The background to this was that Sunni Muslims, Arabs and Kurds live mainly in northern Iraq. Shi’ites, who make up more than 60 per cent of the population, live mainly in the south of the country.

Three quarters of the estimated 250,000 Christians remaining in Iraq belong to the Catholic Church; they are divided into five rites: Chaldeans, Syrians, Armenians and Melkite-Greek Catholics as well as adherents of the Latin rite. As a result of the targeted terror exercised by extreme Islamic groups against those of other faiths, more than one million Christians have left Iraq since 2003. Those who did not wish to turn their backs on their homeland live in ghetto-like conditions. Public avowal of the Christian faith is not possible, and may even risk death. The fear of violence and terror is omnipresent among Christians.

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Posted by Theodore Shoebat