At Taki’s Top Drawer today I summarize the plight of Christians in Iraq.
Last October, a Syrian Orthodox priest, Fr. Boulos Iskander, went shopping for auto parts in the Iraqi city of Mosul. He was never seen alive again. A Muslim group kidnapped him and initially demanded $350,000 in ransom; they eventually lowered this to $40,000, but added a new demand: Fr. Boulos” parish had to denounce the remarks made the previous month by Pope Benedict XVI that caused rioting all over the Islamic world. The ransom was paid, and the church dutifully posted thirty large signs all over Mosul, but to no avail: Fr. Boulos was not only murdered but dismembered. Five hundred Christians attended his funeral, where another priest commented: “Many more wanted to come to the funeral, but they were afraid. We are in very bad circumstances now.”
That is true of Christians all over the Middle East, where safe havens for Christians are dwindling rapidly. Even in Lebanon, traditionally the Middle East’s sole Christian land, Christians suffer persecution, which leads to declining numbers and declining influence — and that in turn encourages more persecution. Christian communities that date back to the dawn of Christianity have been steadily decreasing in numbers; now the faith is on the verge of disappearing from the area altogether. In Iraq, half of the nation’s prewar 700,000 Christians have now fled the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Iraqi Christians today are streaming into Syria or, if they can, out of the Middle East altogether. Much of this migration can be attributed to the resurgence of Islamic militarism in recent decades. Indeed, the career trajectories of two twentieth-century regional titans, Yasir Arafat as well as Saddam, are particularly illuminating: Arafat began as a secular nationalist in the Soviet camp and ended up trying to fend off and co-opt a challenge from the Islamic jihadists of Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) and Islamic Jihad. Saddam was never a Muslim hardliner, and was indeed notorious for his personal divergences from Islamic orthodoxy; nevertheless, in the last days of his regime he did not hesitate to cast himself as a mujahid par excellence, a defender of Islam who deserved the support of all pious believers.
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