Christians of Iraq

It is important to note that Christians of Iraq have no control over the political situation in Iraq and only wish peace and prosperity for all Iraqis and the Murder of the Assyrians continue in Iraq.

The Vatican has offered to be a mediator for the battle of Najaf, the holy city of the Shiite Muslims. It is a demonstrative gesture, but one with a real objective: protecting the Christians

ROMA ­ In an August 22 interview with RAI, Italy's state-owned radio, cardinal secretary of state Angelo Sodano renewed the Holy See's offer to mediate a ceasefire in Najaf, the holy city of the Shiite Muslims in Iraq.

This offer had already been confirmed on August 17, in an official communication from the Vatican's press office, but "on the condition that there really exist the willingness to accept peaceful means for the solution of the conflicts."

In effect, public requests for Vatican mediation had been made until now only by Moqtada al Sadr, the leader who in August ensconced himself with a thousand of his guerillas in the mausoleum of Alì-ibn-Abi-Talib, son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed and the first imam of the Shiite Muslims: not by the legitimate government of Baghdad, nor by the military commanders of the United States. 

But the Vatican mistrusts al Sadr, and the constituents of the marjia, the assembly of the most authoritative Shiite religious leaders of Najaf, mistrust him even more.  On the other hand, the Vatican strives to present an image of itself as being super partes. And so there is also some interest in extending a hand to the armed factions rebelling against the legitimate government.  The principal motivation driving the Vatican to occupy this middle position is the protection of the Christian community in Iraq. 

The terrorist attacks that struck five churches and communities in Baghdad and Mosul on August 1 produced great concern among Church leaders.  And this concern grew after the Iraqi minister for emigration, Pascale Icho Warda declared to the Arab newspaper "Asharq al-Awsat" on August 18 that about forty thousand Christians abandoned Iraq during the weeks following the attacks.

In Iraq, there are now 700,000 to 800,000 Christians. They belong to two different ethnic groups: the Assyrians, who make up the overwhelming majority, and the Armenians.  About 600,000 of them are Catholics. Of these, 8,000 are Armenian by ethnicity and by rite. All the others are Assyrians: 550,000 are of the Chaldean rite, 40,000 of the Syriac rite, and 4,000 of the Latin rite.   The Orthodox number about 150,000. Those of Assyrian ethnicity are either Nestorians of the ancient Church of Persia (100,000) or Syriac (40,000). The Armenians number about 10,000.  The historical territory of the Assyrian Christians of Iraq is in the north, around Mosul, the ancient capital of Assyria once called Nineveh.  
In 1933 the Christians, who had fought on the side of the English before their withdrawal just two years earlier, fell victim to a massacre perpetrated by the Arab Sunni Muslims from the center of the country, with the support of the Kurds. Under Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime the Christians enjoyed comparatively better treatment. But Saddam refused to recognize Assyrian ethnic identity, and forcibly assimilated them with the Arabs. 

Today, with the new government, the Assyrians have regained their citizenship. In the census planned for October 12, 2004, the Iraqis will
be able to attribute themselves to one of these five ethnicities: Arab, Kurd, Assyrian, Armenian, or

But future of the Christian community in Iraq depends above all on the democratic stabilization of the country. Without this, they will continue to emigrate. For example, 80 percent of the Iraqis now living in the United States are Assyrian Christians. And the outcome of the battle of Najaf will be decisive in determining the ordering of the new Iraq.

                                                                                                   Anna Rehana 
                                                                                                 The Webmaster




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