Sunday, June 22, 2014
The Religious Cleansing of Iraq's Christians
Just a year ago, after months of bombings, shootings and kidnappings, Baghdad’s Monsignor Pios Cacha made a grim prediction. He said that his Iraqi Christian community was experiencing the kind of religious cleansing that eradicated the country’s once-thriving Jewish community half a century before.
His rather prophetic words made headlines in Lebanon’s Daily Star: "Iraqi Christians fear fate of departed Jews."
Father Cacha’s reflections couldn’t have been more prescient. As he knew very well, Iraq was once home to 135,000 Jews. Today less than ten Jews remain in the entire country.
And now, with the raging incursion of ISIS – a brutal Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group – the religious cleansing of Iraq’s Christians is nearing completion as well.
Iraq’s Christian community is hardly a western innovation or a colonial relic. It dates from the 1st Century, when two of Jesus’ disciples – St. Thomas and St. Thaddeus (also known as St. Jude) – preached the Gospel in what was then Assyria. There has been a Christian presence in Iraq ever since.
The heartland of their community has always been in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. There, in recent years, the Christian population has swelled, as refugees from Basra and Baghdad have sought protection.
And now, as ISIS sweeps through Iraq, an estimated 150,000 have had to flee Mosul and their ancient Christian heartland, some for the second time in a decade.
Thousands of homeless families have surged into Kurdistan, where they have found provisional shelter and security, thanks to the Kurdish people and their battle-hardened Peshmerga militia.
Yet, strange as it seems, few in the West are aware of the Iraqi Christians' plight or their uncertain future.