The pledge by France to provide refuge for 500 Iraqi Christians is merely for ‘propaganda purposes’ and does nothing to alleviate Iraqi Christians’ suffering, said Iraqi church leaders.
The leaders, refusing to be named, said their followers were paying for the West’s mistakes and blunders in dealing with the Muslim world.
“It is the second time in history we are being persecuted and paying dearly for what the Christian West does,” said one of them.
He was referring to the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages during which European states mobilized huge armies and invaded Palestine, parts of Syrian and Lebanon.
“Those crusades were carried out in the name of Christianity and many in the Muslim world thought we were accomplices because we shared the same religion,” he added.
One another leader said the religious rhetoric of the current U.S. administration which has armies in two Muslim countries and supports Israel blindly mainly on religious grounds has again infuriated Muslim populations who see us as “brothers in faith.”
U.S. troops practices at the start of the war, and the attempts by some U.S. churches to proselytize Muslims by handing out free copies of the Bible in Arabic, made many Muslims think that the invasion was yet another “crusade”, said the cleric.
U.S. troops would decorate vehicles, particularly at the start of the war, with Christian symbols and U.S. Christian denominations began building or establishing new churches in Baghdad and other major cities.
“We keep telling everyone that we as Christians are different. We have got nothing to do with such practices but it seems they provided the fuel for the calamity we suffer from now,” said one church source.
Until nearly the 11 century Christians were reported to be the majority in Iraq. The numbers started dwindling with the arrival of non-Arab Muslim invaders who took over most of the Middle East.
Even under Saddam Hussein, who the West had demonized, Iraqi Christians had the right to build churches, teach their traditional language, Aramaic, and give religious courses to their members inside their churches.
Monasteries and seminaries flourished despite the sweeping U.N. trade sanctions imposed in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
For example, there were 25 priests and 17 monks in the Chaldean order called the Hormozite. Chaldean nuns numbered more than 100 and run schools in Kuwait and the Untied Arab Emirates.
The monasteries and seminaries of Baghdad are all but deserted. And many churches almost empty due to the massive flight of Christians either to northern Iraq or to neighboring countries.
The hardships Iraqi Christians pass through now are unprecedented in modern history and started with the coming of the ‘Christian’ Americans and Brits to Iraq.
One church source described France’s bid to offer asylum for 500 Iraqi Christians as “a joke.”
He said there were nearly 1 million Christians most of them now on the run. “Who is going to save them? These statements are merely for propaganda purposes. We have seen nothing tangible on the ground.”