Saturday, November 11, 2006
FAITH UNDER FIRE
Bishops, commission plead for help for Iraqi Christians
Say half a million have fled their homes because of Muslim attacks
Posted: November 11, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency, has asked government officials to address the "dire situation" facing members of Iraqi religious minorities who have fled their country, especially the Chaldo Assyrians and the Sabean Mandaeans.
Officials said the letter went to Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, and followed by just a few days an earlier expression of concern over the same issue by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Policy, whose members wrote Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
The Iraqi Christians are facing, officials said, beheadings, rapes, crucifixions, and other torture.
"The Commission urges Under Secretary Dobriansky to create new or expand existing options for allowing members of Iraq’s Chaldo Assyrian and Sabean Mandaean religious minority communities to access the U.S. refugee programme, and to urge (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) to resume full refugee status determinations for all Iraqi asylum seekers and assess all claims without delay," said Felice D. Gaer, the chairwoman of the USCIRF.
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"The United States has not made direct access to the U.S. Refugee Programme available to Iraqi religious minorities, taking the position that ChaldoAssyrians and Sabean Mandaeans are subject to generalized violence in Iraq. This position is not supported by the facts," she wrote.
Iraqi ChaldoAssyrians and Sabean Mandaeans represent approximately 40 percent of the refugees who have fled Iraq over the past three years, according to the UNHCR, even though they make up less than three percent of the Iraqi population. Half a million have gone into Jordan, Turkey, Syria and Lebanan.
USCIRF said in its 2006 annual report that "minority communities, including Christian Iraqis, are forced to fend for themselves in an atmosphere of impunity, and lack any tribal or militia structure to provide for their security."
The result is that members of these communities continue to flee the country in the face of violence, in an exodus that may mean the end of the presence in Iraq of ancient Christian and other religious minority communities that have lived on those same lands for 2,000 years.
A car bombing with a dozen fatalities, a priest beheaded and a teen-ager crucified – all recent attacks against the historically Christian Assyrians in Iraq – also recently prompted the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Policy to seek help from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
"We deplore the sectarian violence engulfing the Shia and Sunni communities in Iraq," that letter said. "We are especially and acutely aware of the deliberate violence perpetrated against Christians and other vulnerable minorities."
The attacks have left the Christian population there, estimated at about 1.2 million before the war, in the range of about 600,000 now, officials said.
"The growing and deliberate targeting of Christians is an ominous sign of the breakdown in Iraqi society of civil order and inter-religious respect and represents a grave violation of human rights and religious liberty."
The bishops committee noted a recent beheading of a Syriac Orthodox priest in Mosel, the crucifixion of a Christian teenager in Albasra, the frequent kidnappings for ransom of Christians including four priests – one of whom was the secretary of Patriarch Delly, the rape of Christian women and teenage girls, and the bombings of churches.
All those attacks are "indicators" that the situation has reached a crisis point, the committee said, which said it would like to see a new "administrative region" in the Nineveh Plain Area that would "provide Christians and other minorities with greater safety and offer more opportunity to control their own affairs with assistance from the Central government."
A review of the economic reconstruction aid as well as the refugee policies also could ease some of the problems, the bishops said in a letter signed by Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla.
The Assyrian International News Agency said the attacks "escalated explosively" during the recent Muslim Ramadan events, with the contending parties Shia-Muslims, Sunni-Muslims and Kurds.
"In the middle of the chaos … there is another war, or to be correct a hunt, going on. The ones that are being hunted are the defenseless Christians," the report said.
- On Oct. 4, 2006, a car bomb detonated in a Christian area and killed nine people. Among the killed was Georges Zara, member of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac National Council.
- Father Paulos Eskandar, of Mor Afrem Syriac Orthodox Church, was kidnapped on Oct. 9, 2006, by fanatic Muslims. Two days later the Muslims had decapitated the priest. They did this although the Christians fulfilled their demands by posting a text on the church doors that condemned the pope’s statement about Islam.
- A 14-year-old boy was murdered in a barbaric manner in Albasra. He was crucified and after that the barbarians stabbed the boy in the stomach, just as it was done to Jesus.
- On Oct. 21, 2006, in Baquba a group of veiled Muslims attacked a workplace where a 14-year-old boy named Ayad Tariq worked. The men asked the boy for his identity card. After seeing in his identity card that he was Christian the men asked Ayad whether he was a "dirty Christian sinner." Ayad answered: "Yes, I am Christian, but I am not a sinner." The rebels yelled that he was a dirty Christian sinner and continued to grab him and to scream "Allahu, Akbar! Allahu, Akbar!" After this Muslim ritual they decapitated him in the most brutal and disgusting way, the report said.
The news agency said the Christians in the region speaking Aramaic, profess Christ and are the only indigenous people of Iraq, having lived in their ancestral lands in North Iraq since 5000 B.C.
The report said they’ve lived for centuries under severe persecution by Muslims, and since 630 A.D. there have been about 30 recorded episodes of genocide against Assyrians by Muslims.
Today, it continues, the report said:
- Sept. 25, 2006: Two Assyrian churches attacked in North Iraq in response to Pope’s speech
- Sept. 24, 2006: St. Mary’s Cathedral in Baghdad, home of the Patriarch, is bombed
- Jan. 29, 2006: Four Assyrian churches bombed in Baghdad
- Nov. 29, 2005: Joseph Nabil Ishmael and George Brikha Youkhana are shot and killed in North Iraq
- Sept. 23, 2005: 4 Assyrians Killed in Assassination Attempt on Former Iraq Assyrian Minister
- Sept. 13, 2005: Anita Tyadors is brutally murdered by Muslim extremists in North Iraq
- Aug. 27, 2005: Nabil Akram Amona murdered By Kurdish militia in North Iraq
- March 24, 2005: Zahra Ashour (female student) is beaten to death by Mehdi army personnel in Basra
- Dec. 21, 2004: Three Assyrian churches bombed in North Iraq
- Dec. 7, 2004: Two Assyrian churches bombed in Baghdad
- Nov. 8, 2004: Two Assyrian churches attacked in Baghdad
- Oct. 16, 2004: Five Assyrian churches bombed in Baghdad
- Aug. 26, 2004: Nabil Akram Ammona is gunned down by Kurds
- Oct. 16, 2004: Five Assyrian churches are bombed
- June 7, 2004: Four Assyrians murdered in a drive by shooting in Baghdad
An organization called AssyrianChristians.com is working to help the Assyrians.
"The Assyrian Christians are one of the last remaining Christian communities in the Middle East," said Rev. Ken Joseph Jr., of the Assyrian Christians organization.