By Nabil Nissan, Executive Director, Caritas Iraq
The Christians used to be the original people in this country, they have been here for the last 2000 years, but now they are considered as one of the minorities. Through many ages they embodied the message and mission of Jesus Christ in peace and harmonious living with other many sects in Iraq.
The Christians faced many waves of violence in Iraq throughout many eras and ages but not as brutal and violent as this one. Of course this doesn’t mean that other groups are not facing the same destiny as the Christians as well, whether Shiites or Kurds, but what we are talking about here is the issue of existence. If Iraq keeps on bleeding the Christian existence it will soon be devoid of the one its characteristics identities which symbolize the country.
The Christians since 2003 have been mistakenly attached or linked to the Americans and English troops due to their Christianity. The Christians were the main victim of the methods of intimidation and displacement from their home areas during the past seven years.
Many Christian clergy who decided to stay in Iraq were exposed to threats of kidnapping and murder by extremist groups.
These circumstances prompted many numbers of Christians who have lived for decades in harmony with social surroundings to leave Iraq to join relatives living in the West.
During the last few years the number of Christians shrank from 3% during the first Gulf War to less than 800 000 today. The pace of decline continued during the years that followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime as a result many of them left Iraq because of violence, which affected all segments of Iraqi society and forced many Christians to leave their home areas and the transition to safer areas within Iraq or migration out of the country.
The continuously deteriorating conditions prompted many extremist groups to attack and slaughter Christians as an easy prey taking advantage of the chaos.
Many of the Christian religious men were and still are encouraging the Christians to stay and face this ignorant brutal enemy but now after all this bleeding and non justified violence, the scale will be in favor of another wave of emigration.
The Christians as a peaceful group find themselves helpless and defenseless among this society taking into consideration the tribal community customs of defending its members. Rampant corruption has exacerbated the issue. The Christians found themselves as a sitting duck for the merciless attacks of extremists.
Many attacks took place against Christians whether kidnapping, killing, taking girls from families as wives to extremists and in return allowing their families to stay in their houses, and many other stories which the Christians found themselves sharing with others but in vain.
This is an S.O.S. message to save and keep Christianity in Iraq and Iraq from becoming a country of a single identity.
The call of the government and the clergy for the Christians to stay in their country will sure find no one to listen to as long as there is no peace, dignity and safety for the Christian Iraqis.
Caritas Internationalis defends the protection of all people without reference to their religion, politics or race in Iraq and throughout the world and promotes a message of peace through dialogue.