The media and political awareness that followed the attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad and the explicit threats made by the Al Qaeda organization in Iraq against Christians – threatening to attack their churches and homes – must be praised.
Organizing conferences, holding seminars, and some intellectuals and activists refraining from celebrating Eid al-Adha in solidarity with Iraq’s Christian community is a sign of what is required as part of a larger framework that includes protecting the Christian community and other minorities, in Iraq and across the region.
However as part of this solidarity campaign, there are many slogans and ideas that weaken and undermine the logic of this emerging issue, and this includes looking at this [campaign] as protecting a weak and vulnerable community, rather than defending fellow citizens and partners in Iraqi society.
Columnists, journalists, and politicians, saying that Iraq’s Christians need to be protected and their mass exodus from Iraq reversed because the Iraqi Christians are “kind” and “peaceful” is something that deprives them of their natural rights to safety and freedom and dignity. These are things that everybody is entitled to, regardless of their ethical or moral merits.
In principle, every human being deserves justice, security, freedom, and the opportunity to pursue one’s aspirations and ambitions; these are all rights that predate the right to protection.
It is the right of all Christians, wherever they might be, or indeed any minority or group, to enjoy respect and freedom and citizenship, regardless of any other considerations.
Unfortunately, the targeting of Iraq’s Christian community is not uncommon, for everyday we are seeing how common ground that is shared by members of society in Iraq or elsewhere in the region is disappearing. Therefore minorities’ being attacked is something that has become a common phenomenon and is something that can be seen in politics and the media, as well as our daily lives. This is not to mention the restriction of the political and democratic horizons of both the majorities and minorities in our countries.
Christians are “weak” and therefore deserve protection; this is how the crisis of Iraqi citizenship was presented. Those few who previously expressed solidarity with the Kurds who were suffering at the hands of the majority also based this solidarity on this logic however this was soon replaced by the language of politics and citizenship.
There are a number of international experiences in protecting cultural, religious and ethnic minorities. These attempts included a veiled desire to prioritize the interests of these minorities in the face of the threat posed by the majority. The citizenship enjoys by these minorities acted as their guarantee, whilst law provided these minorities with security and protection.
The process of developing a language to address this minority crisis in the media seems to be too little too late. Thinking of these groups and creating methods to ensure their continued existence and advancement as part of our society is something that is ongoing.
It is not because Christians are “weak” that they have the right to live in freedom and safety. They have the right to live safely and freely, regardless.