A woman walks past the site of a car bomb attack June 18 in Baghdad, Iraq. At least 13 people were killed and 30 others wounded in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad's mainly Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, according to police and hospital officials. (CNS photo/Wissm al-Okili, Reuters)
the end of June I was asked to speak in Washington, DC at a Coptic Solidarity
conference. I receive similar invitations quite often these days, because while
I am a dreadfully inadequate spokesman for their cause, I do speak of the
suffering of Arab Christians whenever I can. Islam’s war on Christianity, in
fact, is the subject of my forthcoming book. It’s a complex issue, but in brief
we can say that the core of the problem is that numerous Koranic verses call
for Christians to be treated as, at best, second-class citizens, and sometimes
to be treated as direct enemies and threats to Islam. As such, the more
authentically Muslim the state, the worse it is for Christians.
brings us to what has happened in Iraq, which will be seen by future historians
as one of the great tragedies of ethnic cleansing, and should be of lasting
importance to the rest of us who follow Christ. The point about Saddam Hussein
and his government was that it wasn’t especially religious, it was Arab nationalist
and secular, and it saw Islamic fundamentalism as its greatest enemy. Saddam
himself was a monstrous figure and his government was oppressive and offensive,
but Iraq was the most literate, stable, andif you likecivilized country in the Arab world. Saddam could and should
have been removed relatively easily, but instead the Americans and their
friends devastated the entire country, eliminated the governing class, caused
chaos, and opened the door to the very Islamic fundamentalists that Saddam had
kept down and who detest Christ, Christians, and Christianity.
it or not, the venomous persecution and subsequent hemorrhage of Christians
from Iraq is a direct consequence of American and western foreign policy,
initiated by the first President Bush and completed by his son. Iraq’s
instability and chaos led directly to the Syrian uprising, which, while in its
inchoate stages, was genuinely democratic but soon fell under the leadership
and dominance of Islamists who want a Syria, and an entire Middle East, free of
Christians. President Obama is no better than his Republican predecessors, of
course, and he has flirted and is still flirting with the idea of actually
supporting the Muslim fanatics who would slaughter any Christians they
encounter. Bush tried to be a friend to Christians but failed miserably, Obama
has no interest at all in being friendly to Christians in the first place.
result of all this is that around 80 percent of the Christians of Iraq and
Syria have been forced to flee their homeland, and the numbers are likely to
increase. Some have gone to Jordan, but there is no guarantee that the
Hashemite royal family will remain in power. Others flee to North America and
Europe. Some of them even ran away to Irana repugnant regime that persecutes
Christians but is still not as dangerous as modern Iraq. The result is that the
towns, cities, and villages where the founders of Christendom lived and prayed
are or will be entirely Muslim. Forgive me if this sounds harsh, but that’s
quite a battle honor for the US military.
makes me genuinely angry that so many conservative Evangelicals and right-wing
Catholics in the United States and even in my homeland of Canada were so eager
to fight a war in Iraq. Their naive bellicosity caused so much irreparable harm
and has led to so much pain for Christians who have held on to their faith
through more than a thousand years of struggle and persecution. I am genuinely
ashamed when I meet with my Christian brothers from the region, and it humbles
me that they are so forgiving of us in the west.
don’t know why the war in Iraq was fought, but I’m sure I will be inundated
with theories and conspiracies about oil, Israel, freemasons, and the like. I
don’t really care about that, but I do care that the grace-filled stream of
continuity from the early Christians is now coming to a halt, now drying up in
the sand and dust of Iraq and Syria. An old man, his hair white and his eyes
moist, took me aside at the Washington conference and asked me to sit down with
him as, in his words, his “legs were weak and an old man has suddenly replaced
the young boy.” He smiled, stared at me and told a story.
have seen good and bad men rule my country of Iraq, but most of them bad.
Saddam came in and he spoke of helping everybody, but became just another
ruler. But he didn’t hurt us Christians, even protected us sometimes. We were
Arabs and Iraqis, and nobody was allowed to deny that. Then came the war, and
suddenly there were Christians everywhere. Americans in uniforms and with guns.
All seemed to be Christian, but they treated us all as if we were foreigners in
our own land, thought we were all Muslim, didn’t seem to understand that we
were worshipping Jesus before their country even existed. My Muslim neighbors
said, ‘these are your Christians, this is your Jesus, this is what you want for
us all?’ It was over, we knew it.” And then he cried.
I love the United States
and I think that it is the most moral and righteous super-power in history. But
as G.K. Chesterton said, no patriot would ever proclaim my country, right or
saying my mother, drunk or sober. So there are occasions when we have to
criticize. And what we must never forget is that our faith, our Catholicism,
our relationship with the Church and with Christ come before our politics and
our nationhood. We were wrong in Iraq, and it’s doubtful we can ever put
matters right. Hold our heads in shame and ask the people of Iraqand God almightyto forgive us. Jesus still
rules Iraq as he does the entire world, but his followers will not be there to
know. The churches are emptying in Iraq, Mass is no longer celebrated in many
of the town and cities. God weeps, and so do his people in the Middle East.