The Martyrdom of the Iraqi Church
By Damian Thompson
MARCH 20, 2008 (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk) - One ancient Christian Church will have no difficulty identifying with the Passion of Jesus during Holy Week: Iraqi Christians, who – thanks to Muslim persecution and Western indifference – may be forced underground, as they were in the days of the Roman Empire.
In the week after the body of the kidnapped Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul was found in a shallow grave, members of a Christian community dating back to the time of the apostles are facing extinction, much to the satisfaction of radical Islam.
According to Dr Suha Rassam of the charity Iraqi Christians in Need, “Christians will now be even more in fear of their lives from Islamic fundamentalists. 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.”
Thousands of Iraqis attended the funeral of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose remains were discovered two weeks after his kidnap. A few years ago, the crowds would have been bigger. That is because half of all Iraq’s prewar population of 1.2 million Christians have left the country since the invasion of the country. Did that possibility ever occur to the American neocons? Do they even care?
The West should listen to Eva Shamouel, of the Iraqi Christian charity Assyrian Aid Society: “This kind of atrocity cannot be brushed off as ‘a general security problem’, as Western governments do when we try to campaign for our political and religious freedoms. This is more proof of systematic, calculated and deliberate persecution of Iraqi Christians.
“The Iraqi government needs more support in order to be able to deal with violence and extremism, and Western governments need to get their heads out of the sand.”
This time last year, Holy Smoke drew attention to a diabolical campaign by jihadists to extinguish the Assyrian Orthodox Church, which forms another part of Iraq’s Christian community. The Assyrians worship in, and sometimes speak, the language of Jesus, Aramaic.
A year on, Iraq is marginally more stable, but the situation of the Christians is worse. Fanatical Muslims, who wield enormous power in the region, may not be directly complicit in terrorism, but they devoutly wish to see the “heresy” of Christianity disappear from all Arab-speaking lands – and, ultimately, the world.
Perhaps Dr Rowan Williams should meditate on that inconvenient fact as he prepares to celebrate Easter.