Christians flee Iraq, hope for peaceful coexistence dims
The ongoing exodus of Christians from Iraq caused by stepped up attacks by Muslim extremists raises doubts as to whether or not contemporary Islam can coexist peacefully with non-Islamic people.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said recently that Christians are part of the foundation of Iraqi civilization, the Wall Street Journal said. Nonetheless, the government has not successfully curbed the activities of extremists.
Maliki said, “The Christian is an Iraqi. He is the son of Iraq and from the depths of a civilization that we are proud of,” The WSJ reported. It further noted that some Christians in Iraq still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda told NPR News that Christians have lived in Iraq since the second century. However, whereas there were one million Christians in Iraq in 2003, today only half as many remain.
Since the Oct. 31 siege by Muslim extremists of Our Lady of Salvation Church, assaults on Christians have stepped up, further raising urgency among Christians to flee the country, or to seek refuge in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, NPR News said.
Extremists have been threatening Christians by either sending envelopes to their homes with bullets inside or through text messages. Homemade bombs are also being used to set Christian homes on fire in Baghdad and other cities, NPR News reported.
Emergent strain of Islam
The WSJ said that what is occurring in Iraq may be indicative of relations between non-Islamic groups and this emergent strain of Islam. It noted that in Egypt, Coptic Christians are continuously assailed, and attacks on churches increase visibly during Easter and Christmas.
The WSJ said because Christians are too small a minority to pose any valid threat in Muslim majority countries, the attacks occur simply because they coexist with Muslims in Islamic majority countries.
The new strain of Islam as described by WSJ is not well controlled by governments, as is the case in Iraq, where radical Islam continues unrestrained. This may indicate that today’s strain of radical Islam cannot coexist with other non-Islamic faiths, even outside Iraq.
The WSJ also noted efforts by Pope Benedict XVI to bridge the divide with little success, largely because the Vatican’s Islamic counterparts lack support from their own countries’ governments.
NPR News reports that there have been talks between Kurds and Christians about the possible formation of a separate Christian province with its own Christian militia.
Salem Tamo Kako, a Christian member of the Kurdish parliament, told NPR News that the talks arose as hundreds of Iraqi Christians have moved to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq over the past few weeks, and thousands more are expected to follow.
Kako however told NPR News that he is against the forming of a separate Christian province with its own militia, as he felt this would only make Christians more of a target, NPR News said.