An Iraqi Catholic archbishop says that Christians in Iraq “are afraid of another wave of persecution that will be the end of Christians,” despite news of the “defeat” of the Islamic State.
“The daily practice of robberies, gang rapes, torture and murder of Christians is ongoing,” said Basra Archbishop Habib Al Nawfali in a recent interview with Catholic News service. “Therefore, they are pondering what will be next.”
Speaking during a meeting on intercultural dialogue sponsored by the European Parliament earlier this month, Al Nawfali, who has been Archbishop of Basra since 2013, condemned the “genocide” of Iraqi Christians, while calling on leaders in the West to defend the rights of native Iraqis, including Christians.
“We need support politically from Western leaders, and Christian villages need help economically to open workshops to provide employment or for the reconstruction of houses,” Al Nawfali said.
He also lamented the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land, noting that as many as 1 million Christians have been forced from their ancient homeland, a situation he described as a “disaster.”
While most Muslims in Basra are “moderate” and treat Christians “with dignity and respect,” others are vocal in their disdain for Christians, the Archbishop said.
“There are fanatics who say loudly in the mosques that we are blasphemers, we are the sons of pigs and monkeys,” he said. “They don’t feel shy in saying that.”
According to Al Nawfali, hatred of Christians has multiple causes.
“Sometimes it’s about political or economic gain,” he said. “They find that Christians are higher educated, have properties, or, for example, work as doctors in hospitals or other senior positions, so they attack them to get money.”
With the displacement and persecution of so many Christians, important cultural treasures, such as the Aramaic language that Jesus spoke are in danger of extinction.
Chaldean Catholics, who worship in Aramaic, “are afraid that this language will disappear in the next generation because our community is now distributed everywhere,” he said, noting that Chaldeans who emigrate usual abandon Aramaic and end up worshipping in the local language.
As Breitbart News reported last summer, more than half the Christians living in Syria and Iraq have been killed or fled the country since 2011, mostly due to persecution from the Islamic State terror group.
A dossier, titled “Understanding Recent Movements of Christians from Syria and Iraq,” was produced by three groups—Open Doors, Served, and Middle East Concerns—and documented the vanishing Christian population in key areas of the Middle East.
Since 2011, Christians living in much of the Middle East have experienced an “overall loss of hope for a safe and secure future,” the report stated, which has driven the majority to flee their homeland in search of safety for themselves and their families.
Moreover, among the many Christians who have resettled elsewhere, there are “few incentives” to return to their countries of origin, the report said, noting that for many “the Middle East is no longer a home for Christians.”
Using the best data available, the report stated that currently there are only 200,000-250,000 Christians remaining in Iraq, a decline of more than 100,000 in the last three years and a dramatic decline from the 1.4-2 million Christians in the 1990s. Many of the Christians remaining in Iraq are displaced internally.
In his interview, Archbishop Al Nawfali described the 400 or so families that remain in his congregation in Basra as “people of deep hope and immense faith.” Despite all that they have suffered, “I trust in God, the Chaldean people continue to trust in God—our faith is deeply rooted, we have been here for almost 2,000 years. That’s a long time,” he said.
“We have only the Spirit of Jesus with us. We have a strong faith; people lose everything but they stay Christian, thank God for that,” he said.
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