Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Spiritual Legacy of the Iraq War

Iraqi Christians with candlesImage by jimforest via Flickr
One of the (unintended?) results of the US and British-lead invasion of Iraq has been to catch indigenous Iraqi Christians up in the post-invasion violence and turmoil, in particular and targeted ways.

According to the Assyrian International News Agency, "During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the estimated 1.4 million Christians - many of them Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians, with small numbers of Roman Catholics - were generally left alone if they didn't oppose the government and they lived in relative peace with the country's Sunnis and Shiites."

Since 2003, by contrast, "Christians specifically were targeted by Church bombings and assassination attempts owing to a perceived association with the aims and intentions of the occupying forces", according to Dr. Kristian Ulrichsen, an Iraq expert at the London School of Economics.

Low-lights of this targeting of Iraqi Christians have included:

  • a wave of attacks on church buildings in 2004
  • the beheading of a priest in Mosul
  • the murder of 40 Iraqi Christians in January 2009
  • the killing of 10 Christians in Mosul in the run up to the March elections.

With up to half a million Christians having fled the country, says Ulrichsen, "There's a real possibility that 2,000 years of settlement by Christian communities in Iraq is in danger of near-total extinction."

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