The Murderers of Christianity
by Patrick J. BuchananNovember 10th, 2010
Sunday, on the eve of All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, 2010, the faithful gathered at the Assyrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad.
As Father Wassim Sabih finished the mass, eight al-Qaida stormed in, began shooting and forced him to the floor. As the priest pleaded that his parishioners be spared, they executed him and began their mission of mass murder.
When security forces broke in, the killers threw grenades to finish off the surviving Christians and detonated explosive-laden vests to kill the police. The toll was 46 parishioners and two priests killed, 78 others wounded, many in critical condition after losing limbs.
Within 48 hours, al-Qaida in Mesopotamia issued a bulletin: “All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the (holy warriors).”
It was the worst massacre of Christians yet. For Assyrian Catholics known as Chaldeans, whose ancestors were converted by St. Thomas the Apostle, the U.S. war of liberation has been seven years of hell.
Estimates of the number of Christians in Iraq in 2003 vary from 800,000 to 1.5 million. But hundreds of thousands have fled since the invasion. Seven of the 14 churches in Baghdad have closed, and two-thirds of the city’s 500,000 Christians are gone.
While Saddam Hussein, a secularist, had protected religious minorities, Muslim vigilantes—Shia, Sunni and Kurd, as well as al-Qaida—have attacked the Christians who have endured kidnappings, pillage, rapes, beheadings and assassinations.
And what has happened to this Christian community, which had lived peacefully alongside Muslim neighbors for centuries, must be marked down as one of the predictable and predicted consequences of America’s war in Iraq.
In editor Tom Fleming’s Chronicles, just days before President Bush ordered the invasion, columnist Wayne Allensworth warned pointedly:
Iraqi Christians fear they will be the first victims of a war that might dismember their country, unleashing ethnic and religious conflicts that Baghdad had previously suppressed. Tariq, a Christian merchant in Baghdad, told the French weekly Marianne that “If the United States goes to war against our country … (t)he Wahhabis and other fundamentalists will take advantage of the confusion to throw us out of our homes, destroy us as a community and declare Iraq an Islamic nation.”*
“If recent history is any indication, Tariq has cause for concern,” wrote Allensworth. “The Shiite uprising in southern Iraq during the first Gulf War—encouraged and then abandoned by Washington—targeted Christians. Many Christians had supported Saddam’s regime, in spite of creeping Islamicization, as their best hope of survival in the Islamic Middle East.”
“We let the Shia genie out of the bottle,” said a rueful Yitzhak Rabin after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon gave birth to Hezbollah.
We Americans did the same with our wars against Saddam’s Iraq.
Why is Christianity being murdered in its cradle by Muslim fanatics?
Multiple reasons. A return of Islamic militancy. The rise of ethnic nationalism that conflates tribal and religious identity. Hatred of America for its domination of the region, for our war on terror that they see as a war on Islam and for our support of Israel in its suppression of the Palestinians.
Christians across the Middle East are now seen as both members of an alien religion and a fifth column of the Crusaders inside their camp.
Paul Marshall of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom warns that we may be in another great wave of persecution, “as Christians flee the Palestinian areas, Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt.”
Christians are gone from Jerusalem, gone from Nazareth, gone from Bethlehem. From Egypt to Iran, the Vatican counts 17 million left.
“Across the Middle East,” writes Robert Fisk in The Independent, “it is the same story of despairing—sometimes frightened—Christian minorities, and of an exodus that reaches almost Biblical proportions.”
In an essay titled in Christ’s own words, “Whoever Loses His Life for My Sake …” columnist Doug Bandow writes,
Although Christians are no longer tossed to the lions in the Roman Colosseum, believers are routinely murdered, imprisoned, tortured and beaten. Churches, businesses and homes are regularly destroyed. The opportunity to meet for worship and prayer is blocked. There is real persecution rather than the cultural hostility often denounced as “persecution” in America.
America remains the most Christianized of the Western nations. Yet, the protests of the White House, State Department and major media over the eradication of Christianity in the Middle East is muted.
Where is the outrage? What happened to the America whose president, with a British prime minister in Placentia Bay, on the eve of war sang with his sailors, “Onward Christian Soldiers”?
Are we so wary of offending Muslim sensibilities or inflaming Muslim rage we cannot denounce the pogroms perpetrated against Christians in the name of Allah?
Of what worth these wars for democracy if we end up freeing fanatics to annihilate communities or expel populations of our own Christian brothers and sisters across the Middle East?
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IRAQI CHRISTIANS are paying the price of the Bush administration's desire to remove Saddam Hussein. The Iranian Revolution and the rising influence of militant Islam have already forced the secular Iraqi dictatorship to make concessions to proponents of Iraq's Islamicization, but the threat of a U.S. attack, together with a widespread feeling in the Arab and Muslim world that Washington's "War on Terror" is, in fact, a war on Islam, have prompted Saddam to play the Islamic card in an attempt to shore up support for his regime at home and in the Muslim world. To that end, the Iraqi regime has recently put the property of Christian churches under the management of its Ministry for Islamic Property; expanded an age-old rule that forces the conversion of Christians married to Muslims to include children from previous Christian marriages, regardless of age or desire; enacted rules making it more difficult to offer Christian religion classes-currently taught in "totalitarian" Iraq in public schools with Christian majorities; and decreed that the non-Arab, non-Muslim parents of newborns must use Arabic and Islamic names for their children.
U.N. economic sanctions have also aided the Islamic revival in Iraq: The hardships of daily life in the embattled country have naturally turned the Iraqis to their traditional religion. As reported in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Iraq now ranks 126th out of 174 countries surveyed on the U.N. Human Development Index, just one place above Lesotho. In 1991, Iraq was ranked 91st. And the country's traditionally Muslim peoples are flocking to mosques. One U.N. official noted that, "Before, Iraq was a secular country; this has changed." For example, a 30-year-old woman, the daughter of a U.S.-educated academic, has taken to wearing the veil, shocking her family. "I have no work even though I have a diploma," she says, "no boyfriend because young men my age are out of work and cannot think of marriage or the future . . . The Quran is my refuge." Allahu Akbar ("Allah is Great") now adorns the Iraqi national flag.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Christians fear that they will be the first victims of a war that might dismember the country, unleashing ethnic and religious conflicts that Baghdad had previously suppressed. Tariq, a Christian merchant in Baghdad, told the French weekly Marianne that "If the United States goes to war against our country . . . [t]he Wahhabis and other fundamentalists will take advantage of the confusion to throw us out of our homes, destroy us as a community, and declare Iraq an Islamic nation!" If recent history is any indication, Tariq has cause for concern: The Shiite uprising in southern Iraq during the Gulf War-encouraged and then abandoned by Washington-targeted Christians. Many Christians had supported Saddam's regime, in spite of creeping Islamicization, as their best hope of survival in the Islamic Middle East.
Life has never been easy for Iraqi Christians, a community of around 800,000 mostly Catholic and Orthodox believers, but the secular Ba'ath regime has largely suppressed outbreaks of anti-Christian violence, and Christians, especially Assyrian Catholics (the predominant Christian group, called Chaldeans in Iraq), have served in prominent state posts under Saddam. Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, is a Christian.
The Chaldeans are an ancient people, many of whom speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus, in addition to Arabic. Converted to Christianity by St. Thomas the Apostle, the Chaldeans later espoused Nestorian doctrines until reunified with Rome in the 16th century. Today, they belong to the Chaldean Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. Classical Aramaic is used in the Chaldean liturgy.
The largest group of Chaldeans is concentrated in Mosul, in northern Iraq, formerly a major Mesopotamian trading hub on the route from India to the Mediterranean, called Nineveh in the Bible. Mosul lies in the United Nation's northern "Safe Haven," which is dominated by the Muslim Kurds. According to Iraqi Christian sources, Kurdish paramilitary forces have conducted a terror campaign against Christians living in the Safe Haven, which has included assassinations of Christian leaders and expropriations of land held by Christians. This campaign has largely been ignored by Western media, the United Nations, Washington, and the U.S.-backed Iraqi National Congress, which portrays itself as the defender of democratic values and of Iraq's minorities.
The August 15, 2002, murder of a nun in Baghdad and the desecration of the convent in which she lived served as a warning to the Christian community of Iraq, which justifiably has little faith that the administration of a "Christian" American President will come to its aid or even has any concern for its fate. On Christmas Eve of last year, an Iraqi Christian mother and her nine-year-old daughter worshiped at Mosul's Clock and Latin Church, built in 1872 by French Dominicans. She told a Washington Post correspondent, "We are praying to God to protect us and our children." A priest echoed her fears: "We're afraid the Kurds will be here and the Muslims will be here. We don't know what the situation will be." In Mosul, Christians have already begun packing away their most precious antiquities to protect them from the pogroms of the Muslims and the bombing of the Americans.