ICC Note: The latest series of conflicts in the Middle East are driving Christians from their homes by the tens of thousands, but this is just the latest in a long history of attacks on the Christian minorities of the Middle East. What was the homeland of Christianity a century ago was nearly 25% Christian, yet today is just a fraction of that community remains.
05/15/2015 Middle East (WSJ) The Christian communities of Syria and Iraq have survived 2,000 years of tumult and war. In some of them, prayers are still said in Aramaic, the language that Jesus used in daily life. These communities now tremble on the brink of destruction.
The numbers are stark. Almost 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Between the U.S.-led invasion that toppled his regime in 2003 and the rise of Islamic State, three-fourths of the country’s Christians are believed to have fled Iraq or died in sectarian conflict. The carnage continues. Of the 300,000 Christians remaining in 2014, some 125,000 have been driven from their homes within the past year, according to a March report on “60 Minutes.”
Almost a third of Syrians were Christian as recently as the 1920s, but only about 10% of the country’s 22 million inhabitants at the onset of the current civil war were members of Christian communities. That long and slow relative decline has accelerated as hundreds of thousands of desperate Christians, along with millions of their Muslim fellow citizens, flee the fanaticism of Islamist rebels and the brutality of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Violent oppression is nothing new for the Christians of these countries. The Ottoman Empire’s well-known genocidal violence against the Armenians during World War I was accompanied by similarly brutal and widespread mass murders of Assyrian Christians. And in the 1930s, in the ethnic and nationalist turmoil following the fall of the Ottomans, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians were murdered in riots and massacres.
Where will it end?