Around fourteen months back, in November 2010, I had written
about the pressures on the Christian minority community in Iraq and my fear about their extinction from
their motherland in one of my piece, “Operation Iraqi freedom and Christians in
which was carried by number of news portals.
Some of the admirers of US regime, my friends in US and
even some of the Muslim Activists had disagreed with the analysis and had
responded with their disagreement for different reasons. A good number
disagreed because of their hate for Saddam and others for the exposure of the
indifferent temperamental behavior of the some Muslims towards the religious
minorities in Muslim society.
After a month of the withdrawal of the Allied forces from
Iraq and its becoming a sovereign state, one of the serving US Military
Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio admitted in an interview to CNA in Rome, “Yes,
you can say in a certain sense that the invasion of Iraq did provoke this tremendous
diminution of the Christian population in that country. And what the future
holds, that still remains to be seen,” Archbishop Timothy believes that the
collapse of Iraq’s Christian
population is among the legacies of America’s invasion in 2003 and he
is perfectly correct.
Before the invasion of Iraq, Christian population was
around 1.4 million of the total population and the community had enjoyed all
kinds of support and patronage during Saddam’s regime which dwindled to around
one hundred forty thousand at the time of the withdrawal of the Allied forces.
Where they vanished? Its a million dollar question.
Secular Saddam Hussein had always trusted Christians and have appointed them to the highest government posts beside giving them freedom to profess their religion with dignity.
Overwhelming majority of the world’s population had
considered Tariq Aziz, a christian catholic and the international face of
Saddam’s regime, who was also foreign minister, as a Muslim. Christians being
considered staunch supporters of Saddam’s regime faced twin pressures with its
downfall, the foremost being the coreligionists of the invading forces and for
others as the former ally of tyrant Saddam Hussain.
The Sunni Muslims of Iraq were nearly convinced and shocked
to see the switch of the loyalty of the Christian community to the invading
Allied forces and the Kurds & the Shia’s hate reached its zenith because of
the community’s past alliance with Saddam. The irony of the whole scenario was
that Saddam protected them where as the Allied forces under US command totally
shied to extend a protective cordon for them. With the rising violence against
the community the Christians were forced to live as displaced community in
their own country and in other countries.
What the Americans did was a catastrophe for a multi-
religious Iraqi society when they literally open their embassy gates for
granting refugee visas to the Assyrians, Armenians and the Catholic Christians
and created zones for them at different places in the suburbs of the American
cities. The European Union too followed the policy and a good number of them
migrated to the invading member countries of the European Union.
During one of my visit to the hub of the Chaldean Christian community in USA, I was amused to know about the fair treatment the community had received from Saddam. One of the Chaldean refugee pastor in US told me that after the Iraq invasion, the open patronage of Condaleeza Rice, the then National Security Advisor to President Bush, morally and financially to her fellow Protestant Iraqi Christians angered the Iraqi Muslims-Sunni’s and the Shia’s and they started targeting Christian churches and the community with more vigor.
The pastor was of the view that ‘Wahhabi Sunni’s soon
started getting patronage from one of the gulf allies of America’ and
the problem took alarming proportions. More than one hundred thousand migrated
to neighboring Jordan
too and are still living there. Thousands internally displaced took refuge in Northern Iraq in the plain of Nineveh, the historic
homeland of Christians of Iraq.
Monsignor John Kozar, President of the Catholic Near East
Welfare Association, recently spoke of the “strong determination” some Iraqi
Catholics have to go back home. After his visit to Jordan, Monsignor opined, “I think
they have a yearning to return to the homeland, and that homeland for them
means practicing their Chaldean-rite Christianity, that has become very, very
important to them.”
While announcing the withdrawal of American forces from
Iraq, President Obama had confidently thundered on 15th December 2011, “they
were leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant,” country and just 10
days after his pronouncement the Christian community in Iraq was under such
tremendous pressure that fear of an attack forced Christians during Chrism to
cancel the Chaldean Catholics’ midnight Christmas celebrations. Services were
moved to the daytime, and Christians were warned by community leaders not to
display decorations outside their homes.
I wonders whom to blame for the decimation of the patriotic
Iraqi Christians from Iraq,
invading Allied forces under US
command or Al Qaida?
(The writer is Secretary, South Asia Council for Minorities (SACM) and can be reached at email@example.com)