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Archive for September, 2010

Solider Guards a Church in Iraq

Solider Guards a Church in Iraq

Written by David E. Miller http://www.themedialine.org

September 16, 2010

As American troops exit Iraq, attacks against the Christian minority continue. The number of Christians in Iraq has dwindled to half of what it was before the American invasion in 2003, an Iraqi official said. Abdallah Al-Nofali, head of the government’s Bureau for the Endowments of Christians and Other Religions, said in an interview with the Arab daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat that according to a recent survey some 40 percent of Iraqi refugees in Syria are Christian.

According to UN statistics, 1.5 million Christians of different sects were living in Baghdad before the American invasion. “The majority of Christians left Iraq because of religious persecution by extremists,” Joe Obayda, an Iraqi ex-pat living in England told The Media Line.

“Today there are less than 500,000 Christians left in Iraq.” Obayda is a member of the executive council of Iraqi Christians In Need (ICIN), a British charity set up in May 2007 to address the influx of Christians leaving Iraq. He said that his charity helped both Christian Iraqi refugees in neighboring Arab countries and internally displaced Christians in Iraq. Obayda said that his cousin was forced to flee Iraq after militants tried to forcefully convert his daughters to Islam and demanded money from him.

He added that the United States was partially to blame for the plight of Iraqi Christians. “The Americans did not foresee the problems that would occur [as a result of the invasion], even though they should have,” he said. “Now that the Americans have left Iraq, the Christians will become a greater target than they already are.” UNHCR Public Information Officer in Syria Farah Dakhlallah said that the refugees of Syria are predominantly Muslim, not Christian. “UNHCR currently provides protection and assistance to almost 152,000 registered Iraqi refugees in Syria,” Dakhlallah told The Media Line.

“The refugee population, like Iraqi society, is diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion and socio-economic status. The majority of those registered with UNHCR are Sunni Muslim at 62 percent, then come the Shia Muslims at 19 percent and the Christians at 11 percent.” “The Syrian Government counts over 1 million Iraqi refugees in Syria,” Dakhlallah added. “UNHCR cannot reliably verify this figure. We can only account for the number of refugees registered with us, which currently stands at about 152,000.” Dakhlallah said that Iraqi Christians, like members of other religious groups, might benefit from community networks such as faith-based charities. “We assist refugees according to their needs, based on their level of vulnerability,” Dakhlallah said. Meanwhile, the intention of Florida reverend Terry Jones to burn a copy of the Quran on September 11 hit Iraqi Christians hard. William Wardah, president of the Iraqi Hammurabi Human Rights Organization said that Christians are always the first victims of provocative anti-Muslim protests abroad.

“On September 9, eleven churches in Baghdad were threatened,” he told The Media Line. “The police placed churches and Christian institutions under increased surveillance.” “Many Christians in Baghdad were verbally abused, especially in ‘hotter’ areas of the city,” Wardah said. “They were told: ‘this time you [the Christians] provoked us, it wasn’t us who provoked you.” Wardah blamed the American presence in Iraq for Christian suffering in the country.

“Hatred for Christians here is a reaction to American activities in Iraq,” he said. “I even raised this issue with the American Ambassador.” “Innocent Christians always pay the price for statements like those made by Pope Benedict XVI and President Bush in the past,” Wardah added. “Christians have lived alongside Muslims for centuries, and there weren’t many problems.” Canon Andrew White, the vicar of St. George, Iraq’s only Anglican Church said that Christians lived under severe threat in Baghdad.

“It has been very bad, but things have quieted down a bit over the past few days,” he told The Media Line. “We’ve had many Christians killed.” White said enraged Muslims told him that Christians were no longer respecting the Prophet Muhammad. Joe Obayda was not optimistic about the future of Christians in Iraq. “Their situation is very difficult. Only last week the Syrian-Catholic church in Basra was bombed, but nobody mentions this.”

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Iraqi Minorities
Iraqi Minorities

 

By: FA ME / Source: Persecution.org

 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom applauds the U.S. Senate’s adoption of S. Res. 322 which focuses on the perilous status of religious minorities in Iraq including Christians who have experienced “targeted violence, have no militia or tribal structures to defend themselves, and do not receive adequate official protection.”

8/17/2010 Iraq (USCIRF) – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) applauds the U.S. Senate’s adoption of S. Res. 322, a resolution spearheaded by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) that focuses on the perilous status of religious minorities in Iraq. The Senate passed this bipartisan resolution on August 5; this follows the earlier passage in the House of a companion measure (H. Res. 944) authored by Representative Gary Peters (D-MI). Both measures reflect many of the recommendations USCIRF has advanced and are critically timed ahead of the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and as Iraq seeks to form a new government.

“USCIRF applauds this resolution for shining a spotlight on the dire issues facing Iraq’s smallest religious minorities, issues about which USCIRF for many years has expressed concern,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF Chair. “Their future is far from secure and there is much that needs to be done.”

Among other important provisions, these resolutions call on the government of Iraq to direct the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights to investigate and issue a public report on abuses against and the marginalization of minority communities in Iraq and make recommendations to address such abuses. They also call on the U.S. government and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq to urge the government of Iraq to implement provisions in the Iraqi Constitution that provide protections for Iraq’s religious minorities; and urge the U.S. government to continue to fund a new minorities committee whose membership is selected by Iraq’s minority communities.

These minorities include Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, Armenians and other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, Yazidis, Baha’is, Kaka’is, Jews, and Shi’a Shabak. They have lived for centuries in the region that is now Iraq, but currently experience targeted violence, have no militia or tribal structures to defend themselves, and do not receive adequate official protection. Many have fled to neighboring countries, where they represent a disproportionately high percentage of registered Iraqi refugees, and still fear to return. Those who remain in Iraq are now concentrated in Nineveh governorate, one of the most dangerous areas of in the country, where they are caught in the middle of a struggle for territorial control between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central Iraqi government and suffer abuses and discrimination as a result.

“The violence, forced displacement, discrimination, marginalization and neglect suffered by members of these groups threaten these ancient communities’ very existence in Iraq, and jeopardize Iraq’s future as a diverse, pluralistic, and free society,” said Mr. Leo. That is why USCIRF has recommended that Iraq be designated a “county of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for its egregious and ongoing violations of religious freedom.

USCIRF urges the U.S. government to make these minorities a high priority in its ongoing relationship with the both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Among other actions, the U.S. government should revive the interagency task force on Iraqi minority issues that previously existed and direct it to consider and recommend policies for the U.S. government to address the needs of Iraq’s vulnerable minority communities. In addition, USCIRF urges the U.S. government to work with the new Iraqi government, when it is established, to reconstitute its minorities committee so that it not only includes representatives of all of Iraq’s minority communities selected by the communities themselves, but also is able to communicate minority concerns to senior Iraqi government officials and the international community.

For additional information and USCIRF recommendations concerning religious freedom in Iraq, see the USCIRF 2010 Annual Report Iraq chapter .

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.

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