The Middle East’s Christian Diaspora
ICC Note: Iraq, a country with a long Christian history stretching to Jesus’ time, is facing the extinction of one of its oldest living communities. From the 1.3 million Christians that once occupied Iraq in 2003 to the 400,000 left today, many communities fear that they will witness the end of Christian life in Iraq. Many have fled to neighboring countries. Many more are still attempting to escape the violent persecution felt through government crackdowns and ISIS (ISIL, IS) related persecution. Many large communities have been broken up and scattered all over the world, congregating in places like San Diego, California, Arizona, Chicago and Las Vegas. As the sectarianism worsens in Iraq, many still cling to the hope that their country will return to peace and Christians may safely return to their communities.
ICC has launched a campaign to provide aid to the Iraqi church to assist those in need who have fled from the attacks. Go here to find out more and donate: Iraqi Crisis Response
07/15/14 Iraq (The American Spectator) – Anyone who obtained too much power in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had two choices: join the Ba’ath Party or die. Joseph Kassab, a medical researcher at the University of Baghdad, chose a third option—flee to the United States. Thirty-five years later, he describes his success here as “an American dream story.” But he is a Chaldean Catholic, and he worries for the fate of his people, the Christians of Iraq.
“Do we want our people to leave Iraq? The answer is no,” he told TAS. “Our ancestry in Iraq goes back 2,000 years before Christ.”
The Christian population of Iraq, which has its roots in the ancient Assyrians who embraced Christianity in biblical times, numbered 1.3 million before 2003. Over the next decade, nearly a million Christians fled to neighboring countries. Many who became refugees fled to the West if they could.
Most joined the Chaldean Christian community in Michigan, which began in the 1870s. They had helped build the automobile industry, saving factory wages to bring family members to the land of opportunity. The Detroit community of Chaldeans now numbers 200,000 and has associations for every profession from pharmaceutics to CPAs.
The Iraqi Christians were an enterprising group and established smaller communities in San Diego, Chicago, Arizona, and Las Vegas, while maintaining ties to faith, family, and their home country community.
“The Christians in Iraq are known for being problem-solvers, the people who extend the olive branch to others for reconciliation, bridge builders,” Kassab said.
In the violence and rising sectarianism that followed the United States invasion in 2003, Iraqi Christians fled to any country that would take them. Christians generally left Iraq in a higher proportion than did Muslims because they lacked resources to protect themselves from regional conflicts. According to Open Doors, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, if trends continue, Iraq will lose all its Christians within four years.