Fearing that our readers might think I only want to fill column space, I would have re-published my article “We Must Protect Iraq’s Christians”, first published on October 12th 2008.
In that article I said that “it is the duty of all Iraqis, not just the government in Baghdad, to protect Iraqi Christians from murder and displacement, and all types of repression against them, especially because they have never been part of alliances against Iraq. They did not come with [L. Paul] Bremer, and others. Iraqi Christians also suffer the worst conditions of any Christians in the region”.
This came against the backdrop of an appeal from the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, Luis Saca, informing the Iraqi government of the need to protect Iraq’s Christians, when he said that “The Christians in Iraq do not have militias or clans to defend them”. He added “I feel pain and injustice, because innocent people are being killed and we do not know why”.
At the time, we faced condemnation and media campaigns by people affiliated with the Iraqi government, but here we are today witnessing a massacre, along with other atrocities against Christians in Iraq. The massacre did not happen at a checkpoint, or as the result of an assassination of a Christian figure at his home, or on a random road. Instead, it was an organized, armed attack on the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady, in the Karrada district of Baghdad. Reports suggest 52 people were killed, nearly two years after the call of Bishop Luis Saca, urging the Iraqi government to protect Christians.
It was striking when Father Youssef Thomas Mirkis, head of the Dominican sect in Iraq, said after yesterday’s massacre that “the plot had been in preparation for a long time, considering the weapons and ammunition found in the cathedral…these take a long time to stockpile”. The words of the vicar of Iraq’s Syriac Catholic Church, Pius Kasha, were deeply saddening, when he said “what is clear now is that they [Christians] will all leave Iraq”.
Thus, the question today is: What has been done since 2008, rather than 2003, by the Iraqi government to protect an Iraqi component from repression and organized violence? Unfortunately, the answer is nothing! It is easy to accuse al-Qaeda, an organization which never hesitates to commit massacres and atrocities. However, Iraqi Christians remain targets in public, and are outspoken in their demand for government protection, so what has Nuri al-Maliki’s government done for them?
One of the hostages in yesterday’s terrorist attack said “Men wearing military uniforms broke into the church carrying their weapons, and killed a priest on the spot”. It is well known that since 2008, Iraq’s Christians, nearly half of whom have left the country, are now turning to the churches [instead of the government] in search of protection from violence. Interestingly, the targeted church was under the protection of security personnel, so how did the terrorists get in?
We can only return to what we said in 2008; that the targeting of minorities, including Iraqi Christians, means the disintegration of Iraq, and is an infringement upon its cultural and political composition. We must ensure that minorities are not excluded on sectarian or ethnic grounds, for this will open the gates of hell. Some are able to incite such a possibility, but so far no one can ensure this will not happen. We must also ensure that tomorrow, the same events do not occur but with Lebanon’s Christians, God forbid. Therefore we say: protect the Christians in our region, in order to protect the virtue of co-existence.