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Plight of Arab Christians in the Middle East

ICC Note:

“As a result of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled that secular government and brought to power a coalition led by sectarian Shiite Muslim parties and created a backlash by Sunni Muslim extremists, the Christian community in Iraq -- one of the oldest in the world -- has been reduced by more than half,” the National Catholic Reporter reports.

By Stephen Zunes

4/2/2012 Iraq (National Catholic Reporter) – It was the second week in January 1991. I was in the sanctuary of a large Catholic church in Baghdad. Every votive candle in the place was lit, no doubt in support of prayers for loved ones in anticipation of the massive U.S. bombing campaign, which was to be known as “Operation Desert Storm,” that was soon to commence.

A member of our group asked the priest whose side the church would be on in the forthcoming conflict. He replied, “The church can only be on one side: that of the victims.”

Little did he realize that, less than 20 years later, Iraq’s Christians would become among the greatest victims.

At that time, there were nearly 1 million Christians in Iraq. While anyone who openly challenged Saddam Hussein’s government would be subjected to repression, within that decidedly secular regime, there was no fear of being persecuted as Christians. Indeed, Christians played prominent roles in Saddam’s government, including those of foreign minister and vice president.

As a result of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled that secular government and brought to power a coalition led by sectarian Shiite Muslim parties and created a backlash by Sunni Muslim extremists, the Christian community in Iraq -- one of the oldest in the world -- has been reduced by more than half. The U.S. invasion and occupation, consequently, resulted in one of the largest Christian diasporas in history.

[Full Story]

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