Thursday, October 05, 2006

Iraq's Christians At Risk Of Annihilation

ANCIENT COMMUNITIES PERSECUTED
Iraq's Christians at risk of annihilation

By CHARLES TANNOCK

LONDON -- The world is consumed by fears that Iraq is degenerating into a civil war between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. But in this looming war of all against all, it is Iraq's small community of Assyrian Christians that is at risk of annihilation.

Iraq's Christian communities are among the world's most ancient, practicing their faith in Mesopotamia almost since the time of Jesus Christ. The Assyrian Apostolic Church, for instance, traces its foundation back to 34 A.D. and St. Peter. Likewise, the Assyrian Church of the East dates to 33 A.D. and St. Thomas. The Aramaic that many of Iraq's Christians still speak is the language of those apostles -- and of Christ.

When tolerated by their Muslim rulers, Assyrian Christians contributed much to the societies in which they lived. Their scholars helped usher in the "Golden Age" of the Arab world by translating important works into Arabic from Greek and Syriac. But in recent times, toleration has scarcely existed.

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In 1987, the Iraqi census listed 1.4 million Christians. Today, only about 600,000 to 800,000 remain in the country, most on the Nineveh plain.

As many as 60,000, and perhaps even more, have fled since the beginning of the insurgency that followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Their exodus accelerated in August 2004, after the start of the terrorist bombing campaign against Christian churches by Islamists who accuse them of collaboration with the allies by virtue of their faith.

A recent U.N. report states that religious minorities in Iraq "have become the regular victims of discrimination, harassment, and, at times, persecution, with incidents ranging from intimidation to murder," and that "members of the Christian minority appear to be particularly targeted."

[snip]

The full article in the Japan Times can be found here.

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