Friday, 1 August 2014

Christians of Syria and Iraq: The tribulations of war and sectarianism

Christians of Iraq: Persecution

Syrian Christians deadly battle with Islamist Takfiri/Wahhabi groups

While Syria and Iraq are burning and occupied Palestine and Gaza are also on fire from above, the sea and below, the Christians of Iraq and Syria like the Christians of Lebanon and have been pushed to the breaking point. Bombed, kidnapped and terrorized like their fellow countrymen no matter if they are Muslims, Druzes, Jews, Christians of the Levant and Mesopotamia have been chased literally out of Mosul, Iraq by Takfiris and Wahhabis of the worst kind of extremism. Christians from Assyrian, Chaldean, Armenian and Syriac churches are the oldest Christians in the world alongside Ethiopian Christians. Ethiopia like Iraq, Syria and Palestine are important to Christianity, all were important in preserving and promoting early Christianity, its teachings and traditions and keeping the memories of the various gospels and stories alive even the ones that didn't make it into the bible. They are mentioned in the Bible and are home to some of the most holiest and irreplaceable places, languages and cultures in the world. The ISIS or ISIL and Takfiri/Wahhabi groups have done nothing to help the residents of Mosul, Kirkuk and other smaller towns home to Iraq's major oil fields which were bombed by ISIS militants. ISIS and its cousins in Syria have brought nothing but cultural and religious destruction to Iraq and Syria. Takfiris warned Christians in Mosul that they had three choices to remind in their city either convert, pay taxes or die. An Iraqi catholic bishop described ISIS as worst than Genghis Khan. The legendary Mongol Emperor and ruler invaded Iraq in 1258 destroying and burning Baghdad including its cultural heritage and libraries in a campaign that is frighteningly similar to the destruction Iraq continues to face from the US-UK led invasion of the country. Iraqi Christians along with their Muslim countrymen were internally displaced or fled Iraq for Jordan, Syria, Iran and further away to Germany and Sweden (who still holds the record for taking in more Iraqi refugees Christians and Muslims than the United States), UK. Some Christians have joined Iraqi army, government and resistance groups during the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Church leaders and organizations pled for a unified and diverse Iraq even as talks (supported by frustrated US backers of the current Iraqi government) of splitting Iraq along three distinct religious and ethnic lines continue to tear the country apart.

Syria's Christians haven't fared any better being caught up in both government and ISIS/Al Qaeda bombings and shelling of civilians in residential neighborhoods, schools and apartment blocks in and around Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and other Syrian cities. Syria is recognized as one of the few places in the world were the rich and ancient language Aramiac (neo-Aramiac) is spoken in the town of Ma'aloula the language of Jesus and 1st century Palestine and Syria  Even the ancient city of Ma' aloula has not been saved from artillery shells. The 1000 year old Crusder castles and monuments left by European Christian knights and leaders that came to Syria and Palestine have suffered damages that will take weeks to repair. It is ashame that Syrian and Iraqi Christians' coreligious brothers in Rome, Vatican and across the Western World have forgotten that millions of Arab and Assyrian, Armenian Christians still live across Mesopotamia and Levant. Many refuse to leave their homelands despite the threats of persecution and death from ISIS and its  cousins.

Christians of Palestine: 

Both Palestinian Christians and Muslims face the same brutality of Israeli occupation and have suffered loosing family members and land without discrimination between both religious groups by Israel. Gaza's Christians have also been bombed and killed by the recent war and churches have served as refuge for both Muslims and Christians

Media: Islamic boogeyman vs Christianity in peril 

Whenever the media pundits, conservative and sometimes Liberal and moderate journalists, pastors and talk show hosts hear about Christian persecution in Middle East, Islam and Muslims in particularly are blamed for causing the exodus of Christians. On Fox News and other less Conservative news stations ie CNN or religious channels like CBN Christian news, there is a never ending tirade of "Muslims vs Christians" or an Islamic holywar against Christians. Pundits and authors push the stereotype of the Islamic boogeyman as a threat not only to the secular world but specifically to Christianity going 1400 years to Prophet Muhammad and Islam's early beginnings. The media pundits and experts constantly scare their audience with the old rant, "Islam wants to convert all Christians to Islam." There's always a wedge driven between Muslims and Christians in the West and also in the Middle East especially when terrorism is mentioned. Terrorism is the catch 22 to keep Christians in the West terrified of their own Muslim neighbors and countrymen and the Muslims in the Middle East and now even Africa. The mainstream media and pundits use terrorism to blind everyone with both real and imagined fear. Terrorism is used to showcase why there isn't more unity, understanding and cooperation between Muslims and Christians. The Crusades and Jihads (which is the incorrect term for holy war) is used as a metaphor for the Clash of civilizations just as Ishmael vs Isaac is used for Palestine and Israel. Despite the fears, Christians and Muslim leaders have worked together through community projects and organizing to end wars and bring about real justice for the peoples of the Middle East. A genuine justice that is long overdue. 

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