Friday, August 24, 2007

Iraq and the genocide of Assyrian Christians

It is perhaps one of the great ironies of the whole Iraq debacle that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair - two of the most avowedly Christian leaders of recent times – should have created a situation which has not only destabilised the entire region, but imperils the very existence of Assyrian Christians. In the liberation of the majority Shi’ia from their Sunni oppressors, the Christians, who once lived and worshipped freely under the regime of Saddam Hussain, now face genocide in their own country at the hands of determined Islamist fanatics. The Rev Canon Andrew White, vicar of the 1300-strong St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, recently spoke in Washington, and said: “The situation is more than desperate. The Coalition has failed the Christians. We have done nothing to support the Christian community or the increased Christian suffering.”

Cranmer is indebted to his correspondent Latimer for the information that follows:

Christians are being cleansed from their ancient neighbourhoods and villages by roving bands of terrorists and criminals. Muslim families swiftly move into the abandoned homes. According to Major General Benjamin Mixon, commander of US forces in northern Iraq, ‘this is an act of ethnic cleansing…almost genocide’. While Sunni and Shi’ia may be blowing each other up, they are united in targeting the Christians, and seek to cleanse them from Iraq in accordance with their respective interpretations of political Islam.

The irony of their situation is that Assyrian Christians are perceived by the ignorant Sunni and Shi’ia as being agents of the West; collaborators with the occupying forces. In fact, their presence in the region predates Islam by some 700 years. Assyrians are Semitic cousins of the Jews: ‘Parthians’ were present on the day of Pentecost and became the first nation to adopt Christianity as their state religion in AD 179, more than a century before Armenia. They claim to have been the first to build churches and to translate the New Testament from Greek into their vernacular Aramaic, the language of Christ. Learned Assyrian Christians kept Greek science and technology alive while Europe lurched through the Dark Ages. For over a thousand years since the Muslim conquest of their homeland, Assyrians have lived in relative peace in the region. They have been second-class citizens of various caliphates, and there have been interludes of active persecution. But for the past 150 years, martyrdom has been their fate. In 1915, the Turkish junta viciously murdered some 750,000 Assyrian Christians and 1.5 million Armenians. Turkey has still not acknowledged this atrocity; indeed, it is a criminal offence to do so. Prior to 1915, Christians were 20% of Iraq’s population; today they are barely 2%.

Most Assyrians are members of the Chaldean rite aligned with Rome, but there are also Syrian Orthodox and Nestorians, the first Christians to reach China. Services at St George’s in Baghdad are attended by many who now have no other church in which they may worship, since so many have been bombed and their clergy and congregants abducted for ransom or ritualistically murdered. Canon White noted that his church members are not only Anglicans, but Christians from many different denominations. Within just the last month, 36 of his own congregants have been kidnapped, and only one has been freed after payment of the ransom.

The Chaldean Patriarch, Emmanuel III Delly, has estimated that as many as half of Iraq's 750,000 Christians have fled the country since the US-led invasion of March 2003. The majority of the remaining Christians live in Dora, a neighbourhood of southwest Baghdad, where they are increasingly terrorised by Sunnis. If they want to live, they must convert. If they refuse, they must pay the jizya – the ‘dhimmi tax’ – or be killed. The sum fixed by al-Qaeda operatives has set this tax at $1,600 per person.

Iraq's outnumbered Christians and other religious minority groups are targets of an unremitting terror campaign, and face daily murders and rapes. Archbishop Emmanuel III Delly has said of the situation that it is ‘Open persecution, as in the early centuries of the Church’. Priests are being beheaded, boys are being crucified, girls are being raped…

And where in the media is this being reported, and what is the West doing about it?

Nowhere, and nothing.

They should read Hebrews 13:3, and consider 1Corinthians 12:26. And then ask why they pour billions of dollars into liberating the oppressed Muslims of Bosnia or the oppressed Muslims of Iraq, yet lift not a finger for the oppressed Christians of Assyria.


Blogger Buenaventura Durruti said...

I'm surprised at you missing the - albeit - limited coverage there has been of this on-going atrocity and particularly Rowan Williams's comment reported in the Times last December: 'The results are now painfully adding to what was already a difficult situation for Christian communities across the region. The first Christian believers were Middle Easterners. It’s a very sobering thought that we might live to see the last native Christian believers in the region.'

As your successor's comments indicate the Christians in Iraq are at the sharp end of a wider Middle-Eastern phenomenon, which as you note has been worsened by the actions of the West, ironically diven by the policies espoused by their evangelical co-religionists.

24 August 2007 at 11:06  
Blogger Buenaventura Durruti said...

Times article December 2006:

The Armenian National Institute has more info than anyone would want to absorb on the Holocaust of 1915, though focusing mmore on the fate of the Armenians that the Assyrian Christians:

And as the horrific bombing attack on the Yazidi earlier this month graphically demonstrated, in Iraq all minorities are both vulnerable and targetted.

24 August 2007 at 11:14  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Buenaventura Durruti,

Be not surprised, for His Grace did not miss it.

But it was paltry column inches, and an awful long time ago. Think of those relatively insignificant stories that have been beamed into every household on a daily basis over the past year, and you will understand His Grace's concern.

His Grace has also covered in the past the 'ethnic cleansing' of Christians from the Middle East: Iraq, however, amounts to genocide.

24 August 2007 at 11:27  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Your Grace surprises me for thinking politicians are Christian in any substantive way. The war with Iraq has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with Realpolitik and using the window of opportunity while Russia was weak and China pre-occupied with gaining access to Western markets, to create a change dynamic in the Middle East.

That has been achieved - and I do wonder if knocking over the house of cards might not be having the desired effect, it is not neat, but nor was the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire or the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Prussian Empire and those cost us much more blood and at least 50 years of carnage. We take it forgranted that Europe now moved peacefully and orderly from 1890 to 1992.......

As for Christianity - Bush was an alcoholic playboy with a loyal but frustrated wife, he embraced Methodism fulfilling its traditional role. The dynamic of a personality driven to drink and whatever else is still one that seeks absolutes - it was however Cheney who was more the architect than Bush.

Let us not forget what quips were made about Jimmy Carter's excessive piety as President - though today noone ever hears of his Baptist fervour and some of the excesses of Hamilton Jordan and Billy Carter.

Nor do we dwell on Catholic Kennedy and his adultery with Secret Service me procuring women for a man wo confessed he could not go for 24 hours without one and whose sexual voracity was blamed on cortisone injections but whoe Catholic pieties were fine for Hyannisport.

As for Blair he is a nominalist who likes "Smells and Bells" and the theaticality of dressing in robes - his wife has the same kick from a legal perspective - but they like outward show and are not given to great detail.

The most amusing thing was when Blair confessed to reading (The Penguin) Koran as if this was unique. Anthony Eden read it in Arabic and used to quote it when meeting Arabs - but what good it did him during Suez one wonders.

24 August 2007 at 11:34  
Anonymous Dr. Irene Lancaster FRSA said...

This is indeed a timely and erudite blog posting.

However, as a friend of Canon Andrew White's and in fact a Trustee of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East of which he is CEO (at the moment non-functional, due to threats from HAMAS), I think it only fair to point out that in his own book on the situation in Iraq, Andrew states that he was in favour of the War, plus he has told me that there were/are weapons of mass destruction, well hidden.

In addition, he has told me that he is indebted to American Christians, including evangelicals, for having supported his work.

All this does not detract from the plight of Christians in Iraq, or in Israel for that matter.

Which is why I am trying my best to assist any Palestinian Christians which it is in my - admittedly very circumscribed - power, to assist.

Thank goodness, for blogs - that is all! And long may yours last.

If you care to access mine, you will see why it is so difficult for people in the Middle East at present. You will hear HAMAS rewriting history and advocating the destruction of 'the Jews'. Why the translator has chosen to use the term 'Zionist entity', I have no idea, when it is obvious to anyone with an ear, that 'Yahud' means 'Jew'.

So, His Grace's recent words on the need for Jews and Christians to work together is even more timely than we thought.

24 August 2007 at 12:06  
Blogger Philip Andrews said...

Your Grace is to be congratulated for raising this issue. It is something that I feel very strongly about and I wonder whether the arch-episcopal pleasure might extend to a little brazen advertising, namely a petition on the No 10 website ( I realise that many people are cynical of such petitions, but I would be grateful if your many readers would consider adding their names to it. (I have written to all the major religious publications, but have so far failed in getting any sort of mention.) There is also a facility of adding a clickable image to websites and blogs, the code is available here:

With many thanks!

24 August 2007 at 14:40  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

We should care about this, of course, but I would argue, as someone who spent a year in Bosnia soon after the Americans arrived, that Bosnia was not about not much about "liberating the oppressed Muslims of Bosnia" as it was ending the horrors that were being perpetrated against innocents of all faiths in that country. The Bosnian Muslims, the Croat Catholics and the Serbian Eastern Orthodox all suffered during the war.

24 August 2007 at 16:04  
Blogger Thersites said...

This is indeed terrible - but what should we do to bring this to further attention?

24 August 2007 at 17:17  
Anonymous Observer said...

Write articles in Church magazines and letters to local newspapers

24 August 2007 at 18:24  
Blogger shergar said...

Very sad. The people who are fleeing are exactly the sort of reflective, balanced people the country desperately needs. It is difficult to read this and not feel very bloody angry with Blair, Campbell, Bush etc. That is not to absolve the frankly satanic, cockroaches of the religion of peace from their portion of guilt.
As always, spurred onto greater enormities by their victims' apparent helplessness. God bless Iraq's Christians.

24 August 2007 at 20:02  
Blogger Roger said...

This is why they have to stay in Iraq - to stop this from happening. Bush said so. Seriously.

The benevolent multiculturalists and democractic universalist allies in 2003 were expecting the Iraqis to great them with flowers. Because they are universalists. They are all things to all people. They want to be worshipped. (ooops)

25 August 2007 at 03:26  
Anonymous Sir HM said...

Christians persecuted by Mohammedans in Iraq

Christians persecuted by Mohammedans in Pakistan

Christians persecuted by Mohammedans in Indonesia

Christians persecuted by Mohammedans in Nigeria

Christians persecuted by Mohammedans in Egypt

Christians persecuted by Mohammedans in Palestine

Christians persecuted by Mohammedans in Kosovo

Hindus Pakistan

Sikhs Pakistan

Hindus Kashmir

Buddhists Thailand

..... etc

When are you all going to realise that wherever there are Mohammedans in large numbers they persecute all people of other faiths and none until eventually there is only Islam. Keep on as we are and this will happen in this country too. Indeed, ask a Hindu living in a Mohammedan-dominated area and you will find that such persecution is already happening.

The problem here is that most of you reading this blog live in nice comfortable surroundings with very few if any Mohammedans in your areas; so when people like me tell you about these things you rubbish us as 'racists' (what race exactly, is Islam?) or 'Islamophobes' (an invented, meaningless word) because you personally don't have these things happening in your own locales.

Repatriate them all to the countries of their family origin.

25 August 2007 at 10:16  
Blogger C4' said...

Has His Grace yet read the book Saddam's Secrets by Assyrian Christian and former Iraqi Air Vice Marshall Georges Sada?

25 August 2007 at 12:26  
Anonymous IslamIsADirtyPig said...

Roger, you are just right!
Get rid of these evil people with their dirty "believe"

1 January 2008 at 14:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am appalled at the lack of coverage by many of the media stations which do not expose such an injustice. When are we western Christians going to wake up from this 'political correctness desease' which in numbing our reasoning. It seems like Iraqi christians were far better off with Saddam. The islamic world is not condemning these attrocities nor will they,they are as guilty as we are, nevertheless how can they? they are obeying sura chapter nine in the Quran and many other verses from the Quran and Hadiths. These are not just a few muslims targeting religiousminorities(dhimmis/Kafiir) but obeying their religion and by the way Islam has many commentaries about Islamic theology therefore nobody can infallibly say;'Islam does not teach this or that'.

8 February 2008 at 20:17  

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