Christians in Iraq ten years after the fall of Saddam Hussein - An interview with Archbishop Nona
ICC Note: In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul Amel Nona tells us how the Christian community in Iraq is doing ten years after the fall of Saddam Hussein. “After 2003 a radical and fundamentalist Islam arose throughout Iraq. And once there, it's very difficult, not to say impossible, to eradicate it again,” said Archbishop Nona. “But the problem is… the islamisation of society… It has become more Islamist and more radical. This is the result of all these fundamentalist groups and a policy which exploits religion to achieve its objectives." According to a 1987 census, there were 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. Today, fewer than 400,000 remain due to rising persecution in the country.
2/20/2013 Iraq (ACN) -Q) How many Christians have left the country?
Archbishop Nona: "It's difficult to say. I estimate about sixty per cent, if not more."
Q) Is the Iraqi government aware of the difficult situation facing Christians?
Archbishop Nona: "What one hears from those responsible in the Iraqi government about the Christians is always good, but there is no real solution to our problems."
Q) Could the West perhaps help here? For example by exerting diplomatic pressure?
Archbishop Nona: "I think the West can do a lot. But it's essential to define more precisely what one means by the West. If one means Western policy, then I don't think we can expect a lot. If by the West we mean the society there, then a lot can still be achieved, by helping the Christians in Iraq through projects in secure areas for example."
Q) You mentioned a growing Islamic fundamentalism. Where does this come from? Is it due to external influences?
Archbishop Nona: "Iraqi Islam was never fundamentalist. But after 2003 a radical and fundamentalist Islam arose throughout Iraq. And once there, it's very difficult, not to say impossible, to eradicate it again. But the problem is not fundamentalism, but the islamisation of society. Iraqi society has changed a lot. It has become more Islamist and more radical. This is the result of all these fundamentalist groups and a policy which exploits religion to achieve its objectives. Fear is a major element in the islamisation of society. The greater the fear, the stronger the fundamentalism."
Q) Perhaps in no other town have Christians suffered so much under Islamic fundamentalism as in Mosul, where you are Archbishop. What is the situation at present?
Archbishop Nona: Mosul still represents a danger for Christians, even though for two years now we have not had any further attacks aimed directly at the Christians. But fear persists because the situation in the city has not improved in general.
Q) In your view, has the faith of the Christians been strengthened by the persecution or has it suffered?
Archbishop Nona: "Persecution strengthens faith. And this has also happened here in Iraq. But I don't believe we can say that faith deepens today without the intervention of the Church. It is essential that we awaken the sense of faith and the importance of Christian witness today. Otherwise, when we have finally overcome the present situation, we will still have difficulties in convincing today's new generations of the importance of faith for life."