In an address in Ireland for the 2011 report by Aid to the Church in Need on Christian persecution, Archbishop Bashar Warda of northern Iraq did not mince words about the plight of Christians and other non-Muslims in his country. Christians in Iraq face “near genocide” due only to their non-Muslim status as the Iraqi government muddies the waters of jurisprudence.
What we Iraqis are suffering is a crisis in cultural change. We are living in a region which cannot decide if it is for democracy or for Islamic law. It cannot decide if it is for the rights of human beings to live in freedom in all its exciting and challenging forms, or if it is for the control of the spirit and the minds of its people.
Since 2003, roughly a million Iraqi Christians have either fled their native homeland or been massacred. The damage wrought by Islamists has also taken its toll on Christian buildings dedicated to serving and uplifting the downtrodden.
Now I would like to talk to you about the systematic bombing campaign of Iraqi churches. The first Iraqi church was bombed in June, 2004 in Mosul. Following that event, successive campaigns have occurred and a total of 66 churches have been attacked or bombed; 41 in Baghdad, 19 in Mosul, 5 in Kirkuk and 1 in Ramadi. In addition, 2 convents, 1 monastery and a church orphanage was bombed.
While Islamists have insisted on blowing up, killing, or otherwise suppressing everything and everyone identified as Christian in Iraq, the Church there has been seeking to build. In January, it was announced that the Church, with the assistance of Aid to the Church in Need, would minister to the Christian community in northern Iraq, the area Christians are fleeing to, by building a university and a hospital.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said both schemes would provide jobs, training and other opportunities for thousands of Christians flooding into the relative security of Kurdistan, away from the religious violence, especially in Baghdad and Mosul.
Speaking after a committee of faithful and clergy met to advance the schemes, Archbishop Warda said: “The plans we have been developing over the past few months are symbols of hope for the Christian presence in our country.”
Christians defend life, education, employment, and religious freedom while Islamists seek only to destroy them. This is an all too familiar theme that has not been missed by Cardinal O’Brien of Britain.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien has said he believes persecution of Christians is growing around the world because of a desire to ‘conquer’ Christianity.
Unfortunately, not all the bishops have learned about Islamic supremacism. Let’s take a look at what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website has been saying about Islam recently.
The most recent press release comes from the Mid-Atlantic Catholic-Muslim Dialogue in May and reports on a meeting between Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore and the President of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Dr. Talat Sultan. ICNA is on the record supporting….wait for it…violent jihad. You can learn more by reading the many articles about ICNA from the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Dialogue is one thing. Making joint press releases with extremists is quite another thing indeed. Considering that the heads of three U.S. Catholic Bishops’ committees joined with Islamic extremists in an interfaith statement about the Ground Zero mosque and “anti-Muslim prejudice” back in September, we can only wonder where the American bishops get their information about Islam. Two weeks prior to that statement, I wrote What Vatican II Did and Did Not Say about Muslims, Christians and Jews. I’ve yet to see any rebuttal by any Catholic Islamapologist, bishop or otherwise.
The Christians of Pakistan and Arab nations wait for international acknowledgment of their sufferings under Islam. It’s an acknowledgment that will never come as long as their brothers and sisters in pews around the world remain silent. There are things that we can do to help, like giving generously to Aid to the Church in Need so that the plans for the hospital and university can move forward and that other persecuted Christians in the world can have support in their efforts to simply exist as Christians. We must also pray mightily for those who are suffering. I can assure you that I have heard from many persecuted Christians in the world and they ask for only two things from the West: (1) Prayer and (2) Public acknowledgment of their plight.
God of Power and of Mercy
Bless those who suffer in your name: May they be comforted by your hand.
Bless your Church: May it welcome those who seek refuge.
Bless your young leaders: May they grow in number and in faith.
We pray for the day when all people, in every land, can worship you in peace and with dignity.