Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Face of Iraqi Christianity

Thanks to James for the link to THIS site.

The persecution of Iraqi's near 2000-year old Christian community is old news by now. They have perhaps suffered more than any. With the destruction of Iraqi civil society, with no one to protect them, these Christians were caught in the middle of the Shiite and Sunni infighting--easy prey for al Qaeda or whatever militia or insurgency happened to be sweeping through a neighborhood. As they were often hard-working and prosperous, they also made prime targets for kidnappings or confiscations. I linked to an excellent story of their plight back in April, 2006, here.

In the Dora district of Baghdad, many churches were fire-bombed and most Christians fled to either Jordan, Syria or northern Iraq. But the story by Michael Yon linked here offers some limited hope for the future. Bishop Shlemon Warduni has returned to St. Peter the Apostle Church in Dora (Catholic Diocese for Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq). Before a recent Mass, Muslim and Christian neighbors worked together to re-install the cross on the church's dome. Yon reports on the service:

Today, Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s. Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back. And so they came to St John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.” They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home. Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. “Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq.”

The sight of Iraqi Muslims filling the pews of a Catholic church, calling for the return of the Christian community does indeed send a powerful message. I try not to read too much into the situation--for this may be a unique, particular circumstance--but hopefully this message will get out, not so much among the expatriate Christian community, but among Muslims themselves. From recent headlines, some Turks, as well as Israelis, could benefit from this lesson. (Thanks to Serge for these links, and check out Michael Yon's site for the rest of the marvelous pictures from the St. John's service.)

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