Friday, March 14, 2008

The climax of the Chaldean catastrophe

Cranmer brought to the attention of his readers and communicants the plight of Iraq’s Christians some time ago, not least because their systematic extermination was scarcely registering on the radar of the mainstream media. While the Iraq focus has been on a botched peace and the occasional atrocity committed by the odd deviant soldier, thousands upon thousands of Assyrian and Chaldean Christians have been ‘cleansed’ from the lands in which they and their forebears have dwelt for almost two millennia.

Under Saddam Hussain there were around half a million of them, distinguishing themselves from their Assyrian cousins, and forming the majority of Iraq's Christians who numbered around 800,000. Saddam appointed numerous professing Christians to positions of authority, including Tariq Aziz, for whose release the Chaldeans pleaded. They were left to worship in peace, and the Islamist jihadis were kept firmly under control. But now their numbers have dwindled by an estimated quarter of a million. Since the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraqi Christians have been targeted by Islamists who label them ‘crusaders’. Churches, priests and businesses owned by Christians have been attacked, and many have fled the country.

It is a great irony indeed that the war to depose Saddam - led by two of the most openly Christian leaders of modern times – is resulting in the systematic elimination of believers from the region.

And now Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, has been found dead and buried. He was kidnapped after leaving Mass and leading the stations of the cross in Mosul, northern Iraq, on 29th February. He believed that the violence they were enduring was a test of faith and, because of it, Christians in the country ‘had learned to put into practice values like forgiveness and love, even for those who persecute them’.

He is a true martyr for his faith, in stark contrast to those ‘suicide bombers’ who pervert the very definition of the word as they blow up innocent women and children in order to gain a place in paradise with the sexual services of a host of virgins. The comparison itself is vile, and yet modern martyrdom appears to have become the sole preserve of Islam.

Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said: "The most absurd and unjustified violence continues to afflict the Iraqi people and in particular the small Christian community, whom the Pope holds in his prayers in this time of deep sadness. This tragic event underscores once more and with more urgency the duty of all, and in particular of the international community, to bring peace to a country that has been so tormented."

Pope Benedict XVI said he was profoundly moved, calling the archbishop's death an act of inhuman violence. His Holiness said it was a cause of ‘deep sadness’, adding: "The most absurd and unjustified violence continues to afflict the Iraqi people and in particular the small Christian community." In a telegram sent to Chaldean Patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel Delly III , the Pope deplored the inhuman act of violence underlining that it damaged the cause of fraternal coexistence between the beloved Iraqi people.

The murderers appear not to have heard of the official Muslim charm offensive addressed primarily to the Vatican, which carried no fewer than 138 authoritative signatories. Or perhaps they were indeed aware of such overtures, but also of the admirable theological riposte made by His Holiness as he understood precisely what they were about.

Canon Andrew White, the only Anglican vicar working in Baghdad, has warned of the ‘very real danger faced by Christians in Iraq’, adding: "This awful event happened in the very heartland of Iraqi Christianity in Nineveh. We are in tears - we are devastated. We are not giving up our faith in Jesus and I am not leaving this beloved land of Iraq."

Charities are united in their concern. Daniel Hoffman, director of Middle East Concern which campaigns for the rights of Christians in Iraq, has said that this murder will lead to ‘a mass exodus’ of Christians fearing for their safety. His fears are shared by John Pontifex, a spokesman for Aid to the Church in Need, who says that ‘that no one among the Christian community is safe’. He believes that this murder is ‘the last straw’ which may ‘result in the extinction of Christianity in Iraq’.

Dr Suha Rassam of Iraqi Christians In Need (ICIN) said: "The only way for the Church in the Mosul area to survive might be if it goes underground, like it did in the first and second centuries. This way, Mass and other services would be held in secret and priests go about their duties clandestinely.”

And while the West slumbers on, someone ought to remind our leaders of the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt 25:31-46): ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.’


Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

As your Grace points out, Blair and Bush have done more to destroy Christianity in the Middle East than anyone since the Crusaders 900 years ago.

Your Grace may be familiar with Willaim Dalrymple's book 'From the Holy Mountain' (1997) where the author desribes his pilgrimage journeyed from Mount Athos to Egypt following the footsteps of John Moschos in 587 AD.

It is clear from his narrative that those countries which were secular dictatorships (Syria, Egypt) have allowed Christians to coexist peacefully with their Moslem neighbours.

It is also interesting that 'secularism' in the Middle east is by no means Atheistic as it is in the West.

It is a point to be aware of if the US shows signs of wishing to clobber Syria in the future.

14 March 2008 at 10:34  
Anonymous oiznop said...

Appalling act of violence from the 'religion of peace'. Why have British Muslims not condemned this? There hasnt been a word. Or do they justify it because the 'Crusaders' are in 'their' country? Don't they know that Assyrian Christians were in the area 600 years before Mohamed conquered it for Islam? Will there be a right of return for all these Christians being forced out? Of course not.

Thanks, Your Grace, for highlighting this and showing the hypocrisy. The persecuted church needs our prayers.

14 March 2008 at 13:04  
Blogger Malthebof said...

Christians are being persecuted in almost all Moslem countries, including the Copts in Egypt. There is not so much as a whisper from Rasputin (aka A of C) he is more concerned about incorporating Sharia law in Britain.
MaltheBof (a fundemental agnostic)

14 March 2008 at 15:10  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

Oh the perils of Democracy building in a Muslim land. What we need is a heap of ethnic cleansing and a military junta to keep order - a bit like Saddam. How ironic. Those Chaldeans are a what the middle east could have been were it not for Uncle Mo's cult of death and carnage.

14 March 2008 at 15:58  
Anonymous Martin said...

It is particularly depressing that the One O'Clock, Six O'Clock and Ten O'Clock news programmes on BBC1 did not even carry the story of the death of Archbishop Rahho. The plight of Iraqi Christians is almost totally ignored by the BBC's main domestic terrestrial channel. The BBC is complicit in covering up the horrendeous situation faced by this beleagured Christian minority.

14 March 2008 at 15:58  
Blogger The Black Fingernail said...

If this had been the death of a prominent Muslim cleric in a 'Christian' country, the BBC would have reported it. As His Grace says, they are goats, and will burn forever in the fires of hell (sorry Your Grace for bringing back bad memories).

14 March 2008 at 16:05  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
we never give much thought to the christians in such places , seeking to bring light , we have in the UK cynicism and a state hell bent on denying the power of the new testament , the terrorists use semtex as the mark of there intellectual dialogue.

14 March 2008 at 20:59  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

The war on Christians? And it's a real war, rather than propagandistic hype? Yawn. It's not as though Christians matter.

Libby Purves on "decent Islam":

But on this topic [of the death penalty for homosexuality], where yesterday a reader took me to task for saying that the Iranian policy was not in any way genuinely religious - let me reiterate that view. The Qur'an indeed supports the death penalty but there is a strong tradition of mercy in Islam. Those who choose to ignore this have other motives. People who genuinely believe in God - "Allah the merciful, the compassionate" - are willing to leave Him to judge such private and victimless 'sins'. People who lack this humility are arrogant, superstitious witch-burners, indulging their own social psychopathy. Ask any decent Muslim.

Islam is really smug liberalism, when it's interpreted right by decent Muslims who genuinely believe in the smug liberal God. Ask any smug liberal.

14 March 2008 at 23:36  
Anonymous mickey said...

Your Grace,

There is not only a religious dimension to this killing, there is also the issue of Assyrian independence. Neither the Kurds to the West or the Sunni Arabs to the East want to see this happen, so both seek to drive the Assyrians out.

It is an unholy mess with no apparent solution.

Meanwhile, I see that Blair (that gifted problem maker) is now spouting off about global warming. The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways!

15 March 2008 at 11:09  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older