Thursday, December 15, 2011

Iraq: propaganda versus reality

-- a call to pray for Iraqi’s imperilled remnant Christians as US and NATO troops withdraw

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 138 
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- By 31 December 2011 all US and NATO troops will have completely withdrawn from Iraq. Whilst the US and NATO had wanted to keep thousands of military trainers there, the Iraqi parliament -- dominated by pro-Iran Shi'ites -- ruled that any remaining military personnel would be subject to Iraqi laws and jurisprudence. Without immunity from prosecution, US and NATO forces would not stay. However, if the propaganda is to be believed, the decimated, imperilled, besieged Christian minority will have nothing to fear when the last US and NATO forces leave Iraq after Christmas. On Monday 12 December, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met with US President Barak Obama at the White House in Washington. The two men had nothing but praise for how the Iraq adventure has turned out. PM al-Maliki boasted, 'We have proven success. Nobody imagined that we would succeed in defeating terrorism and al Qaeda.' President Obama likewise effused that Iraq can be 'a model for others aspiring to build democracy'. The reality, however, is somewhat different.

The Superior of the Dominicans in Baghdad, Fr Amir Jaje, described the atmosphere in Baghdad ahead of the US-NATO withdrawal as 'tense'. 'The extremists,' he reports, 'are taking advantage of tensions to make their voices heard and the faithful are increasingly distressed.'

The Latin Archbishop of Baghdad, Mgr Jean Benjamin Sleiman, told Aid to the Church in Need that Iraqi Christians are preparing for a 'Christmas under siege'. Traditions will be quietly kept in the privacy of family homes, while Christmas Masses will only be celebrated during the day for safety reasons. 'It will be a Christmas, between fear and sturdy faith.' Christians, he said, have been reduced to dhimmitude: a state of subjugation, without rights. Helpless before endless mafia and militia attacks, they are forced to pay the jizya (protection money) as mandated in the Qur'an, Sura 9:29.

The situation in the Nineveh Plains of Northern Iraq -- the ancient Assyrian homeland -- is no better. On 2 December, following Friday prayers, thousands of Muslims went on a pogrom through the predominantly Assyrian northern town of Zakho. They looted and torched businesses they deemed 'haram', that is, forbidden in Islam. After torching a Chinese massage centre, the rioters moved on to raze liquor stores, hotels and beauty salons -- most of which were run by Assyrian Christians, others by Kurdish Yazidis. According to eyewitnesses, some rioters tried to attack the Christian quarter of the town. Fortunately those guarding the political offices fired over their heads, dispersing the mob. The Kurdistan Islamic Union is believed to have instigated the violence. That local Muslims could be so easily incited into such a destructive pogrom is of great concern. Nobody expects things to improve after the US-NATO forces leave. 'It's a big mess,' said David Lazar of the American Mesopotamian Organization. When asked who would be there to ensure the safety of Christians he answered, 'Basically, no one.'

Archbishop Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the northern provinces of Kirkuk and Sulimaniya has expressed the fear that, if the persecution continues with such intensity, 'Iraq could be emptied of Christians' completely. The Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, Rev Patrick J Mahoney, is likewise concerned, stating that unless the situation is addressed 'the public expression of Christianity will be exterminated. America must realise,' he adds, 'that this horrible extermination of Christians is directly related to our failure in ensuring their safety. It is a tragedy that America's involvement in Iraq did not bring liberation for Christians but brutality, oppression and possible extinction. We cannot abandon them. We must do better.'

  • Iraqi Christians will draw closer to Jesus, their Saviour, be more reliant on the Holy Spirit, their strength, and more dependent on God, their sovereign, faithful Rock. 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.' (Isaiah 30:15 ESV)
  • God will bless all Christian witness -- active and passive -- with effectual saving power,'because only through Christ is it [the veil that covers the unbeliever's heart, hardening their mind] taken away.' (2 Corinthians 3:14-16) 'Therefore [believers] be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour [including suffering and death] is not in vain.' (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV)
  • God will intervene to bring security to Iraq's remnant Christians. (Isaiah 59:15b-19)


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. This prayer bulletin was initially written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (AEA RLC).

Elizabeth Kendal's blogs:
Religious Liberty Monitoring and Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

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