What would the Mideast be like without Christians?

What would the Mideast be like without Christians?

By Ellen Ratner/ AINA.org

ISIS/ISIL obviously doesn't care if someone is a journalist with nothing to do with the conflict or who they are trying to help, as in the case of David Haines, the British man killed last weekend. This point was brought home in a House of Representatives hearing from Chairman Chris Smith, R-N.J., and ranking member Karen Bass on Wednesday right before the latest execution.

The topic of this Foreign Affairs Subcommittee concerned the attacks against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq. The numbers of the displaced and attacked are staggering, and the weight on the Kurdish areas is the equivalent of having 50 million people pour into the United States in just a few months. In some areas, people seeking safe haven is a 1:1 ratio to the population. In areas where there is little to begin with, the large numbers of people cannot possibly be cared for.

Syria is a mess. There is no doubt. But now with the political problems of Iraq, it too has become a place where ethnic and religious cleansing is taking place at the hands of ISIS/ISIL. Although Christians in Iraq are targeted, according to testimony in Thursday's hearing, there are 1.5 million Christians, Yazidis and other minorities forced to leave their homes and living in refugee camps. In addition to the people who have been forced to flee, there is some evidence that a monastery standing for more than 1,000 years near Mosul, Iraq, has most likely been destroyed. Destroying a people and their culture is what ISIS/ISIL aims to do.

Although, there is some debate about what these terror groups are really after, Dr. Thomas Farr of the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University said, "The root cause is Islamist terrorism of the kind that hit us on 9/11. That phenomenon finds its origins in a radical, and spreading, interpretation of Islam -- nourished and subsidized by secular and religious Middle Eastern tyrants." Farr went onto quote an Iraqi Christian patriarch who noted that Christians had lived in Iraq for two millennia and had contributed to the common good of the society. The patriarch also noted that the presence of Christians in Iraq (and clearly Syria, where Christmas was a celebrated holiday with a million Christians in a Muslim country) had a stabilizing effect on both countries.

At the hearing, Pascale Warda, an Assyrian Christian from the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization in Iraq, said to stem ISIS/ISIL's genocide, there are several steps that should be taken especially as winter approaches in Iraq.

First, she said there needs to be an increase of aid to the refugees as the current aid is inadequate. Clearing ISIS/ISIL from the Mosul area is necessary so people can return home ahead of winter. In addition, she recommended that their be security forces posted in the area so that people would be able to feel safe when they returned. She suggested that this has been done in the past, during the Saddam Hussein era in 1991.

Pascale Warda also suggested financial compensation for people who have been forced from their homes. She strongly suggested that Christian and Yazidi units be created within the Iraqi military, police, security and other national institutions. As history has been known to repeat itself, she suggested that there be some recognition of the genocide of Assyrian Christians, which has been a recurrent problem since 1915.

Pascale Warda said these takeovers, ethnic cleansings and killings are based on what is a criminal Islamic ideology. Warda said this is encapsulated in one sentence: "Allah is our goal, the prophet is our leader, the Quran is our constitution, jihad is our way, and death for Allah is our most exalted wish."

Christians have lived side by side in what is now Iraq and Syria with Muslims since first days of Islam. At Chairman Smith's hearing, there was testimony that once genocide has been identified, the United States (and other nations) has a legal and moral obligation to act. There is no question about that. There is one remaining question brought up at the hearing that we should all ponder and reflect on: What would happen in the Middle East, what would the Middle East look like and be like, if all the Christians were gone?

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 11:47
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