hat tip-Janet L.

Wednesday » June 25 » 2008


Iraqi Christians are targets of cleansing, committee told
One in three a refugee, but Chaldo-Assyrians want to remain in country


Jennifer Green
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Muslim militants are crucifying children to terrorize their Christian parents into fleeing Iraq, a parliamentary committee studying the persecution of religious minorities heard yesterday.

Since the war began in 2003, about 12 children, many as young as 10, have been kidnapped and killed, then nailed to makeshift crosses near their homes to terrify and torment their parents.

One infant was snatched, decapitated, burned and left on his mother’s doorstep, the committee was told.

Filham Isaac, speaking for the Nineveh Advocacy Committee, told the human rights committee that Iraqi Christian churches were bombed, clergy murdered and unveiled Iraqi women raped or scarred with acid.

It’s part of a systemic — and very effective — campaign to ethnically cleanse the area of any non-Muslims, he said. Chaldean and Assyrian Christians, known as Chaldo-Assyrians, were once the largest Christian minority in Iraq. They are also the oldest, descendants of ancient Mesopotamians who adopted Christianity in the first century.

The Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Church of the East are among the Christian churches in Iraq.

Today, about 300,000, or one in three, is a refugee, he said.

“It’s at a crisis point,” Mr. Isaac’s colleague, Zaya Oshana, said later. “Christians will be completely annihilated.”

Yet, the Chaldo-Assyrians do not want to leave their country en masse.

Instead, they are asking for help to settle the Nineveh Plains, in northwest Iraq, where they can have some independence and form their own state. The land is rich there, and there may be oil, too.

There is some support in the United States and Europe for this independent area, and international news reports indicate more than 700 police officers have begun training to protect the Christians in Iraq, but another 4,000 would be needed to fully secure the region and establish checkpoints on all highways and roads leading into the villages.

The committee also heard from the Ahmadiyya, an offshoot of Islam that began in India about 100 years ago. Ahmadi Muslims differ from mainstream Muslims on their views of Jesus, and on their interpretation of jihad, which they say must be non-violent.

However, they told the committee that they are increasingly persecuted in Pakistan, where they are told they are not Muslim at all and, therefore, their beliefs are an insult to Islam.

Nadeem Siddiq, general counsel for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Community of Canada, told the committee the Pakistani government has been capitulating to mullahs who call them a “cancer” and forbid them from carrying out their prayers, or even mentioning Allah on their wedding invitations.

“They say by ‘posing’ as Muslims, we hurt real Muslims. The mullahs are still not happy. They want our properties confiscated and they want us charged.”

Coptic Christians from Egypt had much the same story, with young girls regularly kidnapped, raped or forced to marry Muslim men. Despite these difficulties, there is no mechanism to claim refugee status in the beleaguered countries. Sam Fanous, of the Canadian Coptic Association, told the MPs that the Canadian Embassy in Cairo needed Canadian, not area Muslim, staff to evaluate refugee claims.

The committee passed a motion to research the issue further and to call for more testimony from minorities suffering religious persecution worldwide.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2008

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