The Last Christians in Iraq

Part II

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Healdsburg, CA–Again, about three weeks ago, your literary (composer) published the first part of which this is the second installment of a serial article at the same time as working on (another) sequential study (on Kashmir) whose Part II appeared last week.  Both of their introductions were within the genre of Opinion pieces.

The second section arose from notes your reporter scribbled two years ago in Berkeley on the remarks of a representative from a Jesuit (Society of Jesus), a Father Pierre deChantenay, S.J., fact-finding Commission which was sent to document the situation on the traditional Middle Eastern Christians (People of the Book) in the aftermath of the War, but which no publisher – including Christian — was willing at the time, to publish the Observer’s commentator impressions, but, as your author pointed to you three weeks ago, now that Al Qaeda in Iraq has chosen to attack this basically neutral group caught between the contending warring  factions at the end of this wrenching conflict, this has become a newsworthy topic.  There has constantly been a Sunni / Shia mutual aggression to exacerbate the War, but Muslim / traditional Christian contention is meant to delay Coalition’s withdrawal.  These violent attacks have gained a slight amount of popularity amongst a small number of Iraqis who associate the Americans and the Europeans as “Crusader” Armies.  Yet, in turn, the rightist (largely fundamental in their religious interpretations) Arab perpetrator’s actions have, unfortunately, given fuel to the racist /sectarian right-wing in the West, and have gone a long way to re-enforce the general inappropriate Islamophobia here.  Although Bush IL, as a columnist in the United Kingdom’s Guardian declares, that the statements (no doubt dictated to a hired [-hand] ghost-writer) by the former “President” in his memoirs, Decision Points, are enough to indict him within the International Court!  They are a confessional of personal high War and Human Rights crimes against Muslims and others!  At the same time, the current Administration in D.C., have realized the sins of their “fathers,” and have begun a significant orderly withdrawal from the desert.  Those of the radical Arab extreme whose main mercenary interests are to maintain the hostilities to gain the supremacy for their ideological parties at the final removal from the theater of the original aggressors and to assert  their own ideologies.  Their battle should still be on the retreating flanks of the invader and not on these indigenous Peoples of the Book, among the most ancient of living Mesopotamian communities. These residents, who have suffered so heavily throughout the troubles find themselves in mortal  danger much to the detriment of the Iraqi nation’s future, for they have historically served the nation to a far greater degree than their numbers would indicate!

Father DeCharentanay demonstrated how most of the Chaldean Christian, whichever larger (politically) world or region-wide Church any part of that tradition may have subsequently acknowledged, are scattered amongst three distinct districts of the Land between the Two Rivers, and by far the thickest concentration is in the north.

Within, the regions of the old (British) Mandate / Ottoman Territory that were shaped into Iraq during the first two decades of the Twentieth Century, at the present most of Christian Iraq resides in the north (i.e., Kurdistan).  On the heels of the Pax Romani, a Pax Christi developed until Islam overran Byzantium (now Istanbul)’s Diocese of the East (i.e., Mesopotamia), and brought the Prophet’s (s) faith with them, and, thus, Christianity became a minority faith there.

As stated in the earlier article, Islam had co-existed with its brotherly religions [for Judaism was a very vital minority within the Arab world, too] up to the formation of the State of Israel, and the final blow came with the America’s “Shock and Awe” upon Baghdad and her hinterlands earlier this past decade (2003).

The remaining Christians in Baghdad, for instance, have been leaving for Kurdistan in large groups.  On the other hand, money is coming from Europe – especially Paris — to discourage them to immigrate to that Continent under their refugee rights and privileges as persecuted minorities in their own natal land although a large percentage have been able to settle elsewhere.

Within (Iraqi) Kurdistan itself, the Kurds, a minority within the Republic, also, discourage the Arabic-speaking Christians, and, therefore, the latter are, also, are suffering from ethnic persecution from their fellow citizens in that Province in spite of the fact that the Kurds are amongst the richest groupings in the nation, and require the skilled labor that the Christians can provide, but the Christians are kept away by prejudice from the high-paying jobs within the petroleum industry even tough though individually they may have the skills.

In a future article your author plans to look at the future of the Christian minority in Iraq with a special emphasis upon Kurdistan, and why without strong free native minorities, a strong independent Islamic Iraq will be harder to achieve.


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