Christians under attack in Iraq
In the past couple of weeks, two events have brought wide media coverage in Washington and Baghdad: George Bush’s personal interviews about his book, Decision Points, and the news that after eight months of impasse, the three political blocs – Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds – had reached a power-sharing agreement and there would soon be a functioning government!
Yet there has been little media coverage of the mourning of 400,000 Iraqi Christians who are feeling fearful and isolated because of the vicious violence directed against them in recent weeks. A heinous attack at the Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad Oct. 31 took the lives of 58 people, including women, children and the priests who served them. Hundreds more were wounded. Hundreds of thousands more – all that are left of Iraq’s indigenous Christian population that once numbered in the millions – have felt their security and their right to freedom of worship ebbing away in a tide of violence that is decimating Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities. Similar acts of violence have terrorized the Christians of Nineveh Governorate in its capital, Mosul, and the surrounding areas. Christians are once again fleeing Iraq in great numbers. The Turkish government reports that they are receiving Christian families at the rate of 150 a week since the days after the attack on the Baghdad church.
Christian ministers in Iraq are the first to point out that there have been hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis of every religious tradition who have died in Iraq since 2003. They point out that it is always those who are simply trying to live their daily lives in peace, security and dignity who are caught in the crossfire of those who choose war and violence as a way of solving problems and gaining power. But it is also true that governmental, humanitarian and religious organizations worldwide recognize this latest attack on Iraqi Christians as tantamount to genocide.
I call on Sen. Richard Durbin, Sen. Mark Kirk, the Illinois congressional delegation and President Obama to act now to stop the figurative – and literal – bleeding of Iraq’s Christian and other minority populations.
There are three steps the U.S. government can take now:
• Accept the recommendation of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that Iraq be designated a “country of particular concern” because of its systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of the religious freedom of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities.
• Pressure Iraq’s newly formed government to increase the security and religious freedom of all its minority populations by proactively heightening security at Christian and other minority religious sites.
• As quickly as possible, create a comprehensive policy to protect the religious, political and economic rights of Iraq’s minorities.
In the words of three-year-old Adam, who was slaughtered in the attack in the Baghdad church after watching his own parents die: “Enough, enough, enough!” End the violence against the Iraqi people now.
Sr. Kathlyn Mulcahy, OP is a member of the leadership team of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.