Stepping Over the Bodies
Christians in Iraq
May 20, 2010
This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship president Mark Earley.
In February, spending on the war in Afghanistan surpassed spending on the war in Iraq for the first time since the 2003 invasion—a sign that our time in Iraq is drawing to an end.
The truth is that the American people have already put the war and that troubled country behind them. Unfortunately, there is one group for whom the troubles in Iraq show no signs of abating—and that's Iraqi Christians.
On May 2, two buses containing Christian university students and workers were bombed in northern Iraq. The attack left one person dead and 188 injured. As one student put it, "We were heading to university, not to a battlefield. We carried no weapons. Nevertheless, we were targeted."
It's by no means the first time. Last Christmas Eve, in the run-up to Iraq's national elections, a Christian bus driver was pulled from his bus and shot to death in cold blood. The day before, a bomb inside a 1200-year-old church killed two worshippers and injured five more.
The targeting of Christians led to a "toning down" of Christmas celebration across Iraq and caused Christmas Eve services to be moved from midnight to the afternoon when it was safer.
As we have talked about before on BreakPoint, Iraq's Christian population is caught between three competing Muslim groups: Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. While these groups agree on very little, elements within each of these groups do agree on the need to terrorize their Christian neighbors. The latest attack prompted approximately 3,000 Christians to march through the streets of Hamdaniyah, where the attack took place. The Council of Christian Church Leaders of Iraq issued a statement that called on the government to take steps to ensure the safety of Iraqi Christians in Nineveh province.
They also demanded that the students targeted by the bombers be allowed to take their final exams "in a safe place" and not "forfeit the current academic year."
I don't hold out much hope for a satisfactory answer on the ground. Nothing that has happened in the past seven years suggests that anyone with any authority in Baghdad cares about what is happening to Iraq's Christians.
It's not just Baghdad. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have dropped the ball as far as Iraqi Christians are concerned. Their goal has been to find a power-sharing arrangement amenable to the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, so that the United States can extricate itself from Iraq while saving face.
But that leaves Iraqi Christians as the odd man out—especially since their ancestral homeland in one of Iraq's prime oil producing areas.
Whatever you think of the Iraq war, it's painful to think that the most enduring legacy of our invasion may be driving the final nail in the coffin of an ancient Christian community. Unfortunately, we are rendering people expendable whose ancestors worshipped Jesus Christ back when most of ours worshipped trees and practiced occasional human sacrifice.
I invite you to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq. And I invite you to let the White House and your elected representatives know that ignoring the plight of Iraqi Christians is neither moral, acceptable, or good foreign policy.
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