I have two stories on Iraqi Christians, one optimistic and the other sad. The first is an item from Zenit, a Roman Catholic news service. It’s from February, but I just came across it. Headlined Iraqi Election Seen to Invite Return of Christians, it says,
Results of the recent local Iraqi elections include the defeat of extremist religious groups, and the possible return home of Christian exiles, said an auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.
….The count on Feb. 5, with 90% of votes weighed in, showed that the Islamic religious parties had suffered losses. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party, on the other hand, won a significant part of the vote. Official results are expected at the end of the month.
Bishop Abouna reported to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that this news “delighted” the Christians who were forced to emigrate due to sectarianism and the violence of the post-Saddam stage.
….Underlining the peaceful environment during and after the elections, he affirmed, “This will make [Christians] think differently and may encourage them to start returning.”
The bishop explained that many Christians believe that “a more secular government will favor minority religious groups” more than religious parties would.
Although Maliki and his party have “strong religious leanings, they have pursued a non-sectarian agenda.”
Now a story from yesterday in the Christian Post, 4 Christians Killed Within 48 Hours in Iraq.
Four Iraqi Christians were murdered within two days by unknown assailants, according to a Christian persecution watchdog group.
“The killing of four innocent people within the last two days has put a renewed fear in our hearts,” said Julian Taimoorazy, president of Iraqi Christian Relief Council, in an interview with International Christian Concern. “What is important is to keep these continuous atrocities in the media and on the policy makers’ radars. What we need is a more safe and secure Iraq for all of Iraqi’s especially for the Christians who have faced ethno-religious cleansing.”
The story also relates these facts, some of which surprised me:
Since 2003, some 750 Christians have been killed in Iraq, according to Archbishop Louis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk. Dozens of churches have also been bombed.
Islamic extremists often target Christians under the assumption that they are supporters of the coalition force since they share the same faith as the West.
Constant death threats, lack of economic opportunities, and security instability have forced more than half of the Iraqi Christian population to flee the country within the past five years.
The U.N. High Commission for Refugees reports that although Iraqi Christians make up only three percent of Iraq’s population, they account for nearly half of the refugees leaving the country.
I knew about the disproportion of Iraqi Christian refugees, but didn’t realize it was that large. Almost half the Iraqi refugees are Christians.
But what surprised me is the figure of some 750 Christians killed since 2003. Every death is sad, but 750 is a much lower figure than I would have guessed. It includes a disproportionate number of clergy and leaders, of course, since killing leaders terrorizes and bewilders a population. I somehow had the idea that many thousands of Christians had been killed. I’ll have to check on this further.