ICC Note: “Over the centuries, we have faced the sword so many times for our beliefs,” a truck driver from Mosul. Is right that in a few years Christians won’t be in Iraq? Either ISIS will kill them or they will emigrate and be living in the U.S., Canada, or Australia, these are the possible options that many Iraqi Christians see. Will there be a future for the church or are is its nearly 2,000 year history nearly finished?
10/06/2014 Iraq (Leader Post) – With extremists flying the black flag of Islamic State less than an hour down the road, the future of one of the last Christian communities in the Middle East is at grave risk of assimilation or annihilation.
An estimated 100,000 Iraqi Christians fled the plain of Mosul in several panicked waves that began in June as Islamic State (also known as ISIL and ISIS) swept east from the Syrian border, murdering, raping and kidnapping as it went. Every place Islamic State conquered, it immediately issued an ultimatum to Christians that repeated the stark choice they had given to Syrian Christians when they seized large parts of that country during the past two years: Either pay a huge ransom for their freedom, convert to Islam or be killed.
“After being here for more than a millennium, this is the Christians’ last stand in Iraq,” said Safa Jamel Bahnan, who used to work as a truck driver at the Mosul airport. “Over the centuries, we have faced the sword so many times for our beliefs. In two, three, four years Christians will not be here because Daesh (Islamic State) kill us. We will probably be living in the U.S., Canada or Australia. Otherwise, we will be erased from this Earth.”
Father Rian, who celebrated one of the masses, was equally grim about Christianity’s future in the Middle East.
“What we are living is the last chapter of an ancient story,” the Chaldean Catholic priest said.
About half of the Christian refugees – whom the UN regards as internally displaced persons – are jammed into the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Many of them attended the four masses offered Sunday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. The masses were celebrated in the Chaldean and Assyrian dialects of Aramaic, which are related to the language spoken by Jesus Christ.