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sinjinsmythe
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« on: September 15, 2003, 08:08:12 PM »

Christians in Iraq
by Glen Chancy

Many public services such as water and electricity may be spotty in Iraq, but at least mail delivery seems to be going well enough. Christian Assyrian families all over Iraq have been receiving versions of the following letter delivered to them in their homes:

By the name of God the most merciful and compassionate!
"Do not adorn yourselves as illiterate women before Islam."
From the leadership of Islamic troops of "Al-Bader"

To this noble family:

We hope that the head of this family will stand with the "brothers of Muslims" group and follow basic Muslim rules of wearing the veil and possessing honorable teaching of Islam that Moslems have continued from old epoch. We are the Iraqi people, the Muslim people that do not accept any mistakes.

If not - and the message will not be followed, we will take the actions of:

1. Killing.
2. Kidnapping.
3. Burning the house with its occupants or exploding it.

For the Christian community of Iraq, one of the oldest on Earth, the message is crystal clear. Convert to Islam, or at least comport yourself to Islamic law - including the veil for your women. Or else you will regret it.

The threats contained in this letter are, unfortunately, all too real. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Assyrians have been the targets of numerous fatal attacks. In Shiite-dominated Southern Iraq, there have been many accounts of Assyrian businessmen being shot dead on the street for such crimes as running liquor stores or selling other goods prohibited by Islamic law.

Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, Christians had been allowed to peacefully conduct such business without fear. Under U.S. and British liberation, many Christians are closing their shops or switching to other merchandise. Church officials have also been attacked. His Grace, Bishop Mar Adai of the Assyrian Church of the East was attacked on the streets of Baghdad. His assailants wanted to steal his gold cross from around his neck.

In the Kurdish enclave of Northern Iraq, America’s Kurdish allies have also been paying attention to the Christians in their midst. It has been reported by Assyrians in various villages scattered throughout Northern Iraq that they have been illegally forced out of their own homes and off their land. They report being constantly pressured to convert to Islam in exchange for guarantees of their safety from the Kurds.

Perhaps the worst of all have been the kidnappings. On August 6th the LA Times reported of these crimes, "The kidnappings have a dark, ruthless quality, often targeting children and teenagers, usually from Iraq's tiny Christian community where no tribal networks exist to fight back against the gangs."

Who Are the Iraqi Christians?

Most Christians in Iraq are ethnically Assyrian. The Assyrians are the original inhabitants of the land now referred to as Iraq. The Gospel was preached to the Assyrians by the Apostle Thomas himself, shortly after the Resurrection of Christ. The majority of the Assyrian population had converted to Christianity by the second century, giving the Assyrians a legitimate claim to being the first Christian nation in history.

Fired by their new faith, the Assyrians began one of the most successful missionary enterprises of all time. By the end of the twelfth century the Assyrian Church spanned the Asian continent, from Syria to the Philippines. Marco Polo reported that during his visit to China in the thirteenth century, he was astonished to find Assyrian priests in the Chinese royal court, and tens of thousands of Chinese Christians. The Assyrian missionaries had been there since the sixth century, and had made such an impact that the first Mongolian system of writing used the Assyrian alphabet.

Over the next centuries, however, Muslim rule and its attendant repression eventually reduced the Assyrians in number and sapped the vigor of their culture. By the mid-1800s wholesale slaughter of Assyrians was being reported at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, under whose control their homeland had fallen. Between 1914 and 1918, two-thirds of all living Assyrians were murdered in a genocide the world has chosen to ignore.

Today, on its ancestral soil, all that is left of the world’s oldest Christian nation is a desperate minority of less than one million people. It didn’t have to be this way. As one Assyrian anonymously wrote, "Today’s Assyrians are the descendents of courageous Christians who resisted many attempts of Arabization and surrender to the Islam. They repeatedly paid with their lives and all their possessions to preserve their beliefs in Jesus Christ. What is so sad, is that I honestly believe that if my ancient ancestors had chosen to adopt Islam instead of Christianity, today, Iraq would be an Assyrian country, not an Arab one. Just like Turkey or Iran, we would be a Muslim country with our own language and identity, instead of a persecuted minority whom the world has forgotten. For Christ, we have sacrificed all."

A Difference of Opinion

There are Assyrians, both in and outside Iraq, who believe the current U.S. occupation could be the answer to their prayers. They hope that U.S. forces will convert Iraq into a modern state, with a secular constitution and an autonomous region in which the Assyrians can live in peace. To this end, some Assyrians have supported U.S. troops in various ways, even risking their lives as guides and interpreters in the field. A few have been killed in action serving alongside U.S. troops.

There are other Assyrians who are not convinced that the occupation will make life better. They remember that when the British ruled Iraq, in the middle of the 20th Century, their situation actually got worse. Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant. He led his people into senseless wars that got hundreds of thousands of them killed. But, as these Assyrians point out, Saddam and his regime did have at least one redeeming characteristic - the genie of Islamic militancy was ruthlessly bottled up. Now that the U.S. and Britain have seized control of Iraq, the cork has been popped.

Islamic militancy is growing, and appears to be gaining steam. To make matters worse, civil wars appear to be brewing within, as well as between, the major ethnic factions such as the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurds.

So far the skeptical Assyrians seem to be the most prescient. U.S. forces in Iraq are spread thin, and taking casualties everyday. They are unable to prevent themselves from being assaulted, even when traveling in armed convoys. U.S. forces also appear unable to guarantee the security of Iraqi civilians. Many Assyrians view the rising tide of anti-Christian violence as evidence of U.S. impotence to protect them.

But even if the U.S. forces could protect the Assyrians from their Muslim neighbors, there is no guarantee that they would even want to. The Wall Street Journal has reported that U.S. policy makers in Iraq consider the Christians to be a "most inconvenient minority." Evidencing too much concern for Iraqi Christians, it is feared, would reinforce the idea that the U.S. is fighting a "war on Islam," thereby strengthening the resistance to U.S. forces. It is obvious to observers on the ground that Washington would prefer if the whole messy problem of Iraqi Christians would just go away.

Occupied Iraq is an unstable and dangerous place. Only now that the true bill seems to be coming due, are members of Congress and concerned citizens asking questions they should have posed months ago. In the cauldron of violence that is Iraq, the U.S. stands ready to lose men, money, and equipment seemingly indefinitely. They are losses that will be grievous, but as a nation, the U.S. will survive.

The Assyrians, in contrast, stand to lose everything, and no one seems particularly concerned.

Conservatives Don’t Care About Foreign Christians

No one expects liberals to care much for the fate of Christian communities in the Third World. On the other hand, almost anyone would expect conservatives to care about the persecution and suffering endured by Christians throughout the world. After all, aren’t conservatives pro-life, pro-Bible, and pro-prayer? Isn’t the Republican Party the party of the God-fearing? Given the rhetoric of many Republican politicians and pundits, one would definitely expect a great deal of concern.

Sadly, this just isn’t the case. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, no conservative politicians or pundits of note expressed concern over what an invasion would mean for the Christian community there. Now that the U.S. has occupied Iraq, and is failing miserably in its obligation to protect the Christian minority, the topic goes unmentioned.

Why Don’t Conservatives Care About Christians?

The answer to this question is surprisingly simple. Conservative politicians and pundits care little for the welfare of Christians outside the United States for one primary reason.

The Evangelical Christian base of the Republican Party doesn’t care. There have been no demonstrations protesting the inability/unwillingness of U.S. forces to protect Iraqi Christians. Their cause has not been championed by any of the televangelists. Christian persecution in post-Saddam Iraq has not been a centerpiece article in any of the Evangelical magazines. At the same time, there have been large protests against the Bush Administration’s ‘Roadmap for Peace,’ a plan many Evangelicals opposed as being too tough on the Israelis. The message is clear to Christians outside the U.S. - Israel matters and you don’t.

Worse still, even when Evangelicals do pay attention to Christians outside American borders, it is often tinged with hostility. Ask the Serbs or the Israeli Christians about that. Of course, the Evangelicals do not consider Catholic or Orthodox Christians to be Christians. Somehow, though, one has to doubt that Jesus feels that way, especially when so many of those suffering persecution for His name are from those communions. If strength in the faith under adverse conditions is the measure of a Christian, then surely many Catholic and Orthodox believers are among the greatest living. Would that the Evangelicals only recognized that fact, while there is still time to prevent any more suffering.

September 15, 2003

Glen Chancy [send him mail] is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Political Science, and a certificate in Eastern European Studies. A former University lecturer in Poland, he currently holds an MBA in Finance and works in Orlando, Florida as a business analyst for an international software developer.
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2003, 08:08:46 AM »

Sinjinsmythe,

Thank you for this post.  It is one element of the equation that is rarely considered in the US.

My old Theology professor warned us of this problem.  He said, "Theology (insert 'history' or almost any subject) is like packing a suitcase.  Just when you think everything is accounted for you notice that a sock is sticking out.  After repacking a shirt sleeve will stick out. Though the task is endless we are doomed to repeat it forever."  Just when I thought the Shia's might be easier to work with than the Wahhabis we run into this reality that we all knew existed but hoped would go away.  It obviously has not.  

No wonder many young people look at religion with exasperation and say that it is better to be irreligious.   At least then we don't have any excuse for our barbarity.  I don't agree with that at all, but outside of Buddhism do we have an example of a religion that refuses to bear arms?  

Chancy is right about the religion and politics of America.  The Evangelicals consider any Christian not of their ilk as non-Christian.  The Liberal "Christians" have virtually the same opinion and their own "theology" is hardly Christian at all.  How is one to understand these groups?  

Are the politicized Christians the tail or the dog?  Are the politicos the tail or the dog?  Which wags which?  A curse on all their houses.

One, of many questions is this, is there any value for Christians to try to have serious discussions with the Sufis?  The question is critical for me.  I'm trying to be a faithful follower of Christ and teach Comparative Religions.

Another question, is there any way to help our Assyrian brothers and sisters?

Dan Lauffer :'(

PS Could you post the link or the reference for this article?
« Last Edit: September 16, 2003, 08:19:31 AM by Dan Lauffer » Logged
sinjinsmythe
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« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2003, 06:26:21 PM »

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/chancy3.html
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« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2003, 09:51:20 PM »

Good article, sinjin.

The author hit the nail on the head regarding Evangelicals. For them the Assyrian Christians are too Catholic (how icky!). Why care about Assyrians?

We should all pray for the Assyrians and that God will eradicate the evil, false religion of Islam from the face of the earth, delivering those trapped in its clutches.

Grant it, o Lord!
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« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2003, 10:04:25 PM »

Thanks a lot Mr Bush!

I also hope the two evil and false religions of this World: Protestantism and Islam, fall, for the good of so many people.
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« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2003, 11:40:29 PM »

What about the Jews?
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« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2003, 11:55:38 PM »

Thanks a lot Mr Bush!

I also hope the two evil and false religions of this World: Protestantism and Islam, fall, for the good of so many people.

1) The article is good, as it shows that some Assyrians (and their bishops) supported the war and are hopeful.  They were messed up anyway--without the war, they were just dying a slow death anyway under Saddam, who killed a large number of them in the 1980's.

2) I would suggest you tone down the rhetoric.  Islam in India is good and Protestantism isn't a great evil (just an error) so why the need to get all hyped up?

anastasios
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« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2003, 11:58:12 PM »

http://www.atour.com/news/assyria/20030727b.html
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2003, 12:13:53 AM »

This website is interesting, by the way, not just the article I linked above but the whole site: www.atour.com

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« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2003, 04:03:30 AM »

I would suggest you tone down the rhetoric.  Islam in India is good and Protestantism isn't a great evil (just an error) so why the need to get all hyped up?

Oh yeah those Muslims are evil with their turbans and brown skin, language I don’t understand, strange exotic customs; and off course we know how violent most of them are.

But those more culturally closer to home Protestants that blow up Federal Buildings, bomb abortion clinics, ban interracial marriage, distort Christian theology, and form KKKs, White Christian’s Alliances, and Christian Knights; oh they are only in error.

Yeah we all know how Muhammad encouraged violence and all, that is evil.

We also know of how Martin Luther wrote a pamphlet encouraging nobles to kill peasants when they rise up against exploitation, assuring them that to do such is a “work of God.” What an error!

If Protestantism is not an evil I do not see how Islam can be. And if one is not evil I cannot see how the other can be. In my view neither is evil and both are in error, both are false religions that lead down a disastrous path and nothing but Christian charity, Christian example and open exchanges will get any of us anywhere. I am not talking so much about ecumenism but simply for men to be men and face your opponent in his eyes and not behind his back.

Like I mentioned on another thread, it is easy for Orthodox Christians to have discussions among themselves about other people and to reinforce their own perceptions, biases, and even ignorance. That is why  I have shared this particular article on an Ethiopian/Eritrean secular site. Already, I am discussing its contents and the issues with several Muslims. Some accused me of being a “Muslim basher” with the simplistic intent of painting Islam in a negative light. Others went into the nauseating and typical “well, what about these and those people? What about the Russian Muslims, Chinese Muslims, etc. No one talks about them, people seem to not even know they exist.” Some think it is a either not an authentic letter (one asked how come Muslim is spelled “Moslem”) or simply an attempt by an agent to create division. Others have shown tremendous sympathy and regret. In all the discussion is going good and most points are being addressed.

P.S.
anastasios,

The article was a balanced perspective, yours is not. He focused on the “difference in opinion” between Assyrians over the question of the occupation. You singled out one part of it and went elsewhere. Our Saturday service is conducted inside of an Assyrian Catholic Church and I can assure you, both from talking to them and casually reading the bulletins that they leave on the walls in the conference/cafeteria that the majority of them do not support having their land occupied by foreigners (one of who has already been there decades before and cause havoc and destruction), as most patriotic people naturally wouldn’t.    
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« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2003, 11:01:44 AM »

Dear Aklie,

The sentence I wrote was awkward.  I was trying to say that Indians are not all bad, as I know from Indian Muslims first hand, and that Protestants are not all bad.  I was not trying to say that one was evil and the other was just in error. You on the other hand, instead of asking me to clarify, played the “let’s just assume what he is saying and attack!!!” game, and have taken one awkwardly-written sentence that I wrote and created a whole posting attacking a straw-man Anastasios.  What you have written does not represent my beliefs, and I believe that due to your angry blow up, you owe me an apology.  What especially irked me was:

Quote
Oh yeah those Muslims are evil with their turbans and brown skin, language I don’t understand, strange exotic customs; and off course we know how violent most of them are.

You are trying to create some sort of sociological, ethnic, racial thing out of a religious point, trying to say I don’t “get Muslims” since they have brown skin but I feel comfortable with “white people” so their sins are more excusable.  My wife, who jokingly accuses me of secretly wishing I were either Hispanic, Arab, or Indian (depending on her mood) would find your statement laughable.

You show either that you are completely ignorant of me or you are just mad and thus being rude.  I have stated on this board before that:

1) I have gone to India twice and can speak Hindi-Urdu almost fluently
2) I was engaged to an Indian Muslim girl at one point
3) I have attempted to learn Arabic but failed so far

So from that we can see that

1) I have no problem with brown skin
2) I understand at least one language spoken by over 200 million Muslims (Urdu)

As far as “strange exotic customs” I would offer that I:

1) I hang out with Arabs and Indians regularly (and not just the Christian ones!)
2) Love Arabic and Indian food
3) Own and wear Indian Muslim clothes on occasion
4) Listen to Arabic music every day
5) Read up on Arab cultural activities

So we can see from that that I don’t fear some strange exotic customs but rather relish them.  As far as the turban point, attached below is a picture of me in a turban for your enjoyment!  Wink



anastasios
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« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2003, 09:45:51 PM »

Quote
From Aklie: Oh yeah those Muslims are evil with their turbans and brown skin, language I don’t understand, strange exotic customs; and off course we know how violent most of them are.

Give me a break!

Aklie, excuse me, but that remark is way off base.

I personally don't care about the color of a person's skin. There are plenty of Christians with brown or black skin.

That "brown skin" remark sounds like the typical leftist "victimhood" rhetoric. It is commonly used to put opponents on the defensive and make their opinions seem illegitimate, the views of "racists".

No one said anything about race.

I said we should all pray that God will rid the world of the evil, false religion of Islam, and I meant what I said.

I still mean it.

From white Bosnia to the brown Philippines, Islam is evil.

It does not matter that one can associate some of its practitioners with smiles and quaint villages, it is still rotten to the core.
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« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2003, 03:12:20 AM »

Hello. I'm sorry that my comment caused this last discussion.

I still hold my views abour Protestantism and Islam as bad religions, but I would never say that all Protestants are evil or all Musilms are evil.

One of the most difficult questions I have in my soul is why so many people around the world are born into Islam or Hinduism and never get to know anything better than that, millions of good people die without hearing a word about Jesus Christ. But we don't know why.

And the few who hear something about him hear it from an Evangelical sect which has distorted the truth to an extent in which Evangelicalism is as far from Apostolic Christianity as it is Islam.

Now that you mention Bosnia, I know someone wonderful from that country, and I always feel bad thinking that as she is Muslim, she might not find eternal salvation.

To tell you the truth, I don't see so much difference between the Evangelical attitudes and those of Islam. Maybe Evangelicals are more dangerous to the faith than the Islam. Muslims do not lie about what they are, while the Evangelical religion always make people fall in errors. Maybe someone who briefly left Apostolic Christianity to embrace Islam can reject his errors and understand them, but a person who has become Evangelical is lost.

The proof is that many muslims in Albania are returning to the orthodox Church, and those in Kosova, little by little, have reconciled themselves with Roman catholicism. As soon as the political problem dissappears this will happen again. But history has taught that the places where Protestantism won, have been lost for ever, entire regions of Europe.
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