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Thursday, 18 December 2008

Christians in Iraq, the unfashionable minority

Many thanks to Jane Teresa at My heart was restless for this important article on the general Silence on Iraqi Christians.

On Tuesday, Edward Leigh MP managed to get a slot for a debate in the House of Commons on the plight of the beleaguered and persecuted Christians in Iraq: a plight contemptuously ignored by the mainstream media. In his opening remarks, Mr Leigh explained the importance of the question:
It is important because we are talking about a massive humanitarian disaster and the fate of the Christian population in Iraq. It is one of the oldest Christian populations in the world, having been settled there for 2,000 years, and is descended in great measure from the ancient Assyrians, who had been there for thousands of years. It is an historic, settled population. Just five years ago there were 1.2 million Christians in Iraq, and now there are only 600,000 left. There has been a massive flight of Christians from Iraq and it is reckoned that although the Christian population is as low as 4 per cent., perhaps as many as 30 per cent. of the Iraqi refugees in Syria are Christians.

The terrible humanitarian disaster is continuing even as we speak. Even since September 2008, at least 14 Christians have been killed in Mosul and at least 2,000 Christian families have fled the city since 2003. It is not just about people leaving the country—at least 700 Christians have been murdered. The situation is very serious indeed.
The very sensible proposal for a 19th province around Nineveh to provide some security and protection for the Christian minority was dismissed by the Government minister Bill Rammell. It seems that ethnic cleansing is not a matter of too urgent concern if the people being beaten and killed are Christians.

Here is another powerful story from Edward Leigh which is recorded in the debate:
In a conversation with an Orthodox priest, I asked, perhaps rather naively, what would happen if somebody converted from Islam and joined his congregation. I had just attended an extraordinary, moving service at his church. The whole village turned up. These churches are entirely bare: there are no icons or ornaments. The priest gives a simple service in Aramaic, which was the language of Jesus Christ. These people are the last speakers of Aramaic.

As I said, when we were having coffee with the priest after the service, I asked, rather naively, “What would happen if somebody from the local Muslim community wished to join your church?” He said, “They could join my church today, but tomorrow they would be dead.” There was no doubt about that—it was no exaggeration. One simply cannot evangelise in Iraq or, indeed, in most Muslim countries, and if people seek to convert, they will be killed.
You can read the whole debate at Hansard. Jane googled this debate (held in the "Mother of Parliaments") on Tuesday and found nothing. There is still nothing. The mainstream media are not listening and they do not care.
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