Iraq, once known as the “cradle of civilization” may soon come to be known as the “graveyard of civilization.” The first laws, writing, astronomy and math were all gifts that Mesopotamiagave to advance civilization. The most famous Mesopotamian from Ur of the Chaldeans, was Abraham, the patriarch of the three great religions; Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Today the land is being torn apart by religion and foreign intervention. After the creation of Israel, most of the once large and thriving ancient Jewish community in Iraq fled. My father came from Iraq to America in 1952 because he realized that Iraq was not a nation for a Christian man to raise a family. He was an indigenous Chaldean who spoke Aramaic, the language of Christ, and wanted to be free to practice his Catholic faith.
The number of Christians who have emigrated from Iraq is over1 million and increasing since the most recent societal breakdown. Soon the indigenous Christians could disappear from Iraq like the Jews. What has gone so wrong to create this cataclysmic turn of events? The answer is simple: You either have a strong man controlling the country and keeping a lid on ethnic divisions or you must give these groups autonomy to live as they see fit. Prior to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire there were relatively few uprisings as they ruled their Caliphate ruthlessly but at the same time were divided into homogenous ethnic/religious provinces and few of its vassal states dared to challenge it.
This changed during the reign of the “Young Turks” in the early 1900’s. The “sick man of Europe” saw many of its far-flung provinces rebel under more “liberal” constitutional rule encouraged by European colonial powers eager to carve up the Ottoman Empire. So for centuries, Muslims lived under a caliphate which was an essential part of their civilization and when that rule ended with the secular “Young Turks”, the equilibrium between Christians and Muslims was impossible to reach and religious and ethnic strife commenced.
It was during this period that the Armenian/Assyrian genocide began which saw well over 1 million Christians slaughtered by the Turks and their Kurdish allies as Armenians sought independence with the backing of Russia. Few in the west lifted a finger to help and Hitler even rationalized his Holocaust by noting, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Frustratingly, history keeps repeating itself.
What we are witnessing today throughout the Middle-East against Christians by the Jihadis is nothing less than genocide; beheadings, imprisonment, crucifixions, kidnappings, rapes, Church burnings, and intimidation in order to chase out the oldest Christian communities in the world from their ancestral homelands. A Pew Research study points out that Christians in the Middle East are the most persecuted group in the world, yet President Obama wants to give weapons to those allied with Al Qaeda who are inflicting great carnage against the Christian population. Oddly, Russia has been the only country to come to the aid of terrorized Christians in their support of Syria’s secular regime, which protects the Christian minority. The Saudi’s who fund ISIS could end this oppression tomorrow if there was a will to put pressure on them in Washington. Sadly, our Middle-East foreign policy is dictated by a Machiavellian divide and conquer approach. Saudi and Israeli special interests are catered to, but the Christian community is caught in the crossfire with no one to speak on their behalf.
With Iraq, George W. Bush proved to be even more ignorant than Winston Churchill who, as leader of the British Empire, grouped antagonistic sects in Iraq and created ill-conceived borders that could only be held together by the threat of British intervention. The British divide and conquer strategy ended very tragically for their foreign imposed King Faisal in 1958. What followed after years of instability was the more homegrown, but ruthless rule of the secular Baath Party, which held Iraq together and allowed some religious freedom.
The failed idea of interventionism and imposing western systems and values alien to local customs has left these lands in turmoil. The people of Iraq are not enemies of each other, the enemies are those who would deny another human being the right to live in peace and to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and to pursue their development in accordance with their aspirations. Civilized Christians, Jews, and Muslims of good faith must heroically and openly reject those barbaric foreign forces of death and oppression fomenting discord as we valiantly do unto others as we would have done unto us. There is a danger to ourselves when we stand up for what is right, but we place our children in greater danger if we don’t.