The Worst that has Happened to Iraqi Christians In the Past Twenty Years
Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako
This article is nothing but a contribution to help understanding the current situation and urging for a wise and careful review of the accumulated events in the past two decades for the sake of finding appropriate solutions to protect Iraqis, particularly Christians and minorities.
Christians are the heart of Iraq and the origin of its ancient civilization. They constitute an essential part of its diverse ethnic, social, national, religious fabric and of its cultural heritage: Chaldean, Assyrian, Syriac, Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen, and Yazidi etc.….
Christians by nature love life, nature and knowledge. They are known to be peaceful, never offend others, but rather respect them on fraternal bases. Their honesty and loyalty speaks for them.
Every upscale school, professional hospital, honest employee, orphanage, and social care home for the elderly and marginalized, as well as charitable societies, such as Caritas, speaks for them.
Iraq was a Christian land, before the arrival of Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula in the mid of the 7th Century, and was ornamented with monasteries, Churches, and schools (see Muhammad Saeed Al-Tarihi, Christian Monasteries and Places in Kufa and Its Suburbs, Beirut 1981).
Christians welcomed the coming Muslims, accepting them at their schools, cultural centers, and hospitals. Furthermore, Christians translated Greek sciences into Syriac and Arabic languages at the “House of Wisdom” before exporting it to the West. I would like also to point out the influential role of former Christian ministers, doctors, pharmacists, economists, jurists, writers, artists, musicians, engineers, historians, linguists, archaeologists, who operate tourism facilities (hotels and restaurants), in addition to the skilled builders who built many Muslim mosques, particularly in Mosul.
Frequently, Muslims describe Christians: “as roses and salt of the earth”, and the Qur’an praises them by stating: “You will find the closest in affection to those who believe are those who say, “we are Christians” (Al-Ma’idah 82) and “We placed compassion and mercy in their hearts” (Al-Hadid 27). So the question is, wouldn’t be worthy to preserve this “treasure” and never waste it?
Caliphs used to discuss people’s problems in front of their doors, in the mosque or in the “public square” and solved them according to an inherited customary law, in an exemplary way of achieving justice! How far are we from adopting such model today?
The history of a country begins when: it gains its freedom and sovereignty on its territory; approves its own “constitution” and laws; and respects the standards of justice, human rights and freedom. These are the fundamental rules for a harmonious society with full citizenship rights.
Bitter Present and Uncertain Future
Christians have paid a “substantial” price over the past twenty years. Such painful memory will remain fresh in their mind for many years.
- In June and August 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) displaced 120,000 Christians from Mosul and the towns of Nineveh Plain. During the three years of this tragedy, the Church “alone” supported them (including many Muslim families) and still does. After the liberation on 2017 she restore homes, schools, and Churches, while the central government ignored them completely, to face either emigration or their fate as if they are strangers in Iraq.
- Kidnapping of Christians (including clerics), killings and ransoms, hate speeches, cases of forced religion conversion, seizure of their fortune, homes and properties, in addition to the authority given to armed militias (especially of Babylon) over Christian towns in Nineveh Plain for the sake of financial and political benefits. All the above prevented displaced families from returning back, preferring to remain in the safe Kurdistan region!
- Babylon Militia, It is unfortunate that successive governments abandoned Christians due to competition for “quotas’ seats”, special benefits and widespread corruption. Based on a political decision, they handed over Christians’ affairs and capabilities to “Babylon militia”, which is supported by government and other parties. Yet, it is “nonsense” to hear from some officials that this is a Christian-Christian conflict, but the struggle is rather with the armed “Babylon” as a group of the Popular Military Mobilizations, led by called “Rayan” who claims being Christian and Chaldean, while he is completely far from true Christian morals, in falsifying facts with no-stop lies. It is well-known that those who have lost their morals have lost already themselves.
Christians refuse to have (Rayan) as their guardian. However, he was able through malicious means, to “buy” the loyalty of some clerics in order to “transfer” his conflict with the Chaldean Church into an internal “conflict” between the Churches. However, this is unlikely to happen because the Chaldean Church us aware of that and most other Churches. Christians rejected “Rayyan” and his movement completely. Hence, Christians are able to distinguish honest people from opportunists, that is, “the good shepherd from the hired man” (John 10/11-12), and they do not listen to those who guide him! Our people will remember this “example” for years to come.
- Withdrawal of decrees. The decision of the President of the Republic, Dr. Abdul Latif Rashid to withdraw decree (147) from the Head of the Chaldean Church under a pressure from the leader of the “Babylon” and his four parliament members and four months later from other Church leaders. The whole process is nothing but targeting Christians. Despite the fact that the President was obligated to respect these historic decrees, which gained legitimacy (since their issuance), even though the current President had not issued them. This hasty and unprecedented decision by the President Rashid was something we could not have imagined at all!!!
- How can our thoughts not shift to the grief of the Qaraqosh wedding (September 2023), how joy turned into a funeral, and life into death (133 dead and a number of injured) and tragedy is still considered as an accident!
Here I wonder, shouldn’t those who closed their eyes with a handful of money reconsider everything with a critical sense?
These and other “public” attacks forced more than a million Christians to emigrate. Most of them are the intellectual, economic, and skilled elite, the emigration is still taking place, and may lead to emptying the country of them and minorities within few years!!
Government’s Stance and Solutions
An issue of such seriousness and importance, obliges the current government to assume its national and legal responsibility by adopting practical measures to bring justice to the Christians, save them, address their situation firmly, restore their seized properties, and conduct an investigation with the abusers proportionate to the abuse and compensation with the extent of the damage, as well as reassuring them of a better future in terms of security and dignity, in their beloved homeland!
The first measure is to withdraw of the militias, especially “Babylon”, from Nineveh Plain and replacing them with the national police. This was my demand from the previous government and what the bishops of Nineveh Plain requested from the prime minister.
Let the “Babylon” movement devote itself to working within the controls of the Popular military Mobilization, obeying the orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, leaving Christian affairs to be resolved between Christians and the State through dialogue and collaboration with good will and not through exclusion.
Despite all this injustice and pain, Christians still have “hope,” that injustice, corruption, and lies will not prevail, but rather truth, honesty, and justice, and the sun must rise again, the path to peace and security will reopen, and our country will be blessed with goodness.
Regarding us, we will not surrender to evil, and we will not lose hope because “God’s judgment” must come in the end and He is the true guarantor of truth when human justice fails!