Stop the slaughter in Iraq

  • November 3, 2010
Baghdad coffinsIt’s long past time the world opened its eyes to the horrors being inflicted on Middle East Christians and, in particular, the forgotten faithful of Iraq. It’s time to sit up and take action to end their suffering.

The slaughter in Baghdad last week of more than 50 Sunday worshippers, including priests, women and children, inside Our Lady of Salvation Church was just the latest outrage in a litany of kidnappings, murders and bombings that began shortly after Saddam Hussein was deposed by the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. Hundreds, if not thousand, of Christians have died.

Joining many Church and world leaders in condemning the massacre, Pope Benedict XVI called the attack “absurd violence” and “savage” but condemnation is not enough. The Pope should join with religious leaders and faithful people of all Christian denominations to demand the Iraqi government lower the sledgehammer on the Muslim zealots who torture and kill Christians with medieval impunity. Church leaders must pressure world governments and the United Nations to intervene in Iraq with all the political and economic might they can muster.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was defended as a necessary evil in order to create a peaceful, democratic republic that would uphold such basic human rights as equality and freedom of religion. But that hasn’t happened. Iraq is a politically unstable country that refuses to defend minority rights and end religious persecution.

The Catholics killed at Mass were brave people who stayed behind in recent years as floods of Christians poured into neighbouring countries to escape those intent on purging Iraq of Christianity. More than 200,000 Christians have fled since 2003 and most live as refugees in places like Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. But resettling Iraqi Christians is an inadequate solution to the problem.

Just as ethnic cleansing is intolerable, so too is this religious cleansing of a people whose Christian roots date back 2,000 years. Moral support is fine but the persecuted Christians of Iraq deserve more. They need the world to condemn their persecutors and demand that the Iraqi government abide by its obligations to enforce the law, protect human rights and end religious persecution — or face severe and escalating political and economic sanctions.

It’s not enough for Iraq to dispatch troops when a slaughter is unfolding but ignore the everyday persecution of its Christian citizens. The apathy by the rest of the world is also unconscionable.  

“Christians are slaughtered in Iraq, in their homes and churches, and the so-called ‘free’ world is watching in complete indifference, interested only in responding in a way that is politically correct and economically opportune, but in reality is hypocritical,” said Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan.

Sadly, he is right. The situation is deplorable and it can’t be allowed to continue.

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