ICC Note: The violence that Iraq’s Christians have faced has driven over 100,000 out of their homes in just the past few months. Since 2003, over a million Christians have left the country due to violence that has plagued the country, often specifically targeting Christians in the midst of broader sectarian clashes. Yet, some hold hope that this is not the end for Christianity in Iraq, but that as has been the case for nearly 2,000 years, despite violence and persecution, Christianity will continue in these lands.
09/22/2014 Iraq (USA Today) – Weeks before its first horrendous beheading of an American journalist, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria gave Christians in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, a stark one week choice: Convert or face execution. Christian houses were marked with a black “N” — for Nazarene, a reference to Jesus.
Those who fled were, as a refugee named Raad Ghanem put it, “stripped of everything. Money, wallets, jewelry, ID, passports, watches, everything.” For the first time in 16 centuries, there are no Catholic masses in Mosul on worship day.
This persecution has reached well beyond Mosul. As recently as 2003, roughly 1.4 million Christians lived in Iraq. After more than 60 church bombings and ISIL’s recent campaign to exterminate religious minorities, the numbers have dwindled. Syrian Christians are under equally serious assault, as are Coptic Christians in Egypt.
But history offers a glimmer of hope in the midst of this darkness. It is not just that refugees from persecution often find a home in new countries where their beliefs can flourish, as Catholics and Jews did in 19th century America, and Protestants did before that. The more profound truth is that violence rarely has the final word, even in the country from which a religious minority has been excluded.