Assyrian International News Agency, CA
Nov 15 2004
U.S. Must Protect Iraq’s Christians
Iraqi Christians are being persecuted in unprecedented numbers since
the U.S. invasion and fall of Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s Christian
community is only 3 percent of Iraq’s population, but according to
the United Nations, 20 percent of the refugees who leave Iraq are
In raw numbers this is 20,000 to 30,000 of Iraq’s Christian community
of 800,000. The United States, as the champion of liberty and
democracy, must address this unplanned consequence of the war.
Freedom of worship and religious tolerance are pillars of liberty and
During Hussein’s regime, Iraq was a secular dictatorship. Christians,
for the most part, were able to worship unmolested.
Christians have lived in Iraq since the time of Jesus Christ.
Christian groups include Chaldean Assyrians (Eastern Rite Catholics
who recognize the authority of the pope), the independent Assyrian
church and Armenian and Syrian Catholics.
Since April 2003, those groups, which form one of the world’s oldest
Christian communities, has been threatened with extinction.
Christian businesses are closing because of violence. Iraqi
businesses that traditionally are run by Christians are being
Bishop Mar Adai of the Assyrian Church of the East was attacked on
the streets of Baghdad by people who wanted to steal the gold cross
around his neck.
In August, Islamic extremists systematically bombed Christian
In September, there was evidence that Islamic extremists were
systematically kidnapping and torturing Iraqi Christians.
On October 16 and 17, five churches in Baghdad were bombed by
There are reports that non-Christians dump garbage in the homes of
their Christian neighbors.
The new interim Iraqi government is unable to provide protection to
minority Iraqi Christians from acts of violence and bigotry.
While we talk of democracy and liberty for Iraq and the Middle East,
we fail to discuss the details, including the freedom to worship as
one pleases without fear of persecution. This is overlooked by the
media and the politicians in their discussions of Iraq’s future.
Unfortunately, many of our allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi
Arabia, do not permit their citizens or others the right to worship
as they please. As a result, the native Christian community
throughout the Middle East is fast disappearing because of
persecution. It is now happening in Iraq.
Because of the U.S. presence in Iraq, there is an unequaled
opportunity to stop religious persecution there and to influence the
course of religious tolerance for years to come.
But for that to happen, we must let our elected representatives and
national policymakers clearly understand that democracy and liberty
include religious freedom for all.
Religious minorities should not be forced to flee Iraq because of
America’s foreign policy or lack of attention. As one Iraqi Christian
leader said, “If the doors were opened to America and Australia,
there would not be a Christian left in Iraq.” The United States must
address the plight of Iraqi Christians.
To be fair, Iraq is not the only nation in the Middle East lacking
religious toleration or whose Christian population is diminishing.
But the United States liberated Iraq and its people. To make that
liberation complete and to make democracy and liberty a reality,
Iraqi Christians — and all Iraqis — need to be guaranteed the right
to worship without fear of persecution.
By Paul L. Whalen
Paul L. Whalen, a Fort Thomas lawyer, presented a resolution at the
United Methodist Church’s 2000 General Conference recognizing the
International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.