Remembering the Christians of Iraq
When we think of Iraq we often think in monolithic terms -- it is a Muslim country. We know that there are Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds, along with Shiva Arabs living in Iraq, but we often forget that there is a small but significant Christian community in Iraq. This community has existed from the earliest days of Christianity. Philip Jenkins has told their story in in his book, the Lost History of Christianity, the review of which can be found here.
It is always difficult to live as a religious minority, and this becomes increasingly difficult in times of transition and change. One of the unintended consequences of the fall of Saddam Hussein is that religiously oriented parties came to the fore and sectarian violence increased -- to the point of Sunni-Shia civil war. Caught in the middle of this sectarian violence was the small Christian community, a community that has gotten increasingly smaller due to the persecution and flight from Iraq. Many Iraqi Christians have found refuge in Syria and in the United States, especially Metro-Detroit.
I have received two visits from a local leader in the Assyrian/Chaldean community. This man has come asking for support of the Assyrian/Chaldean community in Iraq. He has shared with me the plight of his people and shared with me the efforts being made to remind Congress of this situation. But not only must Congress be reminded -- so must we -- for if we forget this people, then they can remain a targeted people. Indeed, one of the reasons they have been targeted is that they have been identified with the United States (remember that many of those who have been most vocal in support of the Iraq war also claim that we are a Christian nation).
It is important that we not forget the Christians in Iraq. It is important that we make sure the people of Iraq not scapegoat this community because of U.S. actions in Iraq. It is important that we hold the government of Iraq accountable for respecting the rights of this minority community. It is important that we remember them in our prayers.