Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts

Monday, October 11, 2010

Persecuted Chaldean Iraqis Find home in East Tennessee

Chaldean Catholics, native to Iraq, are fleeing their home country to avoid persecution. WBIR News reports that many Chaldeans are tortured and murdered for their beliefs.

An estimated 100,000 Chaldeans are in the United States, and about 100 are in East Tennessee. More are on their way.

Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim of the St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Chaldean Diocese and the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville are hopeful about establishing a mission for the Chaldean immigrants.

Tennessee Diocesan Paper, here

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Assyrian speech in the International Conference of Genocides in 1914-1918

This was the speech of the Assyrian researcher and activist, Ashur Giwargis. In the international conference about the genocides in the Ottoman Empire against Assyrians, Greeks, and Armenians during WW1 - English Translation: Mary Challita

Greek Parliament

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Conference Organizing Committee and participants.

Before presenting my speech, I would like to comment on some statements made my some of the distinguished speakers.

First point, we are simply Assyrians, not Chaldeans neither Syriacs nor Syrians, because Chaldeans are Catholic Assyrians, and Syrians or so-called Syriacs, are Orthodox Assyrians, so, It would be better to say “Assyrians” because it’s our ethnic national identity, and in this case we would be talking about all the Assyrian sects. We can’t say “Arabs and Sunna” because there are Sunni and Shiite Arabs.

Second point, I’ve heard many times mentioning of kurds as a persecuted people, we understand this, but also we should not forget that kurds we re part of the Genocide perpetrators. This is how we should deal with this matter when we talk history, but if you want to politicize the genocide, this would be another case.

Third point, I ask the Assyrian Union in Greece to not be a part of any occasion or joint statement mentioning the term “Kurdistan” because this term is an insult to the Assyrian nation, and I ask our Armenian and Greek brothers to be aware of this, for Assyrians it’s a matter of principles and dignity, it can’t be politically compromised. When we say we are Assyrians this means we are from Assyria, and if the Assyrian highlands and the north of today’s Iraq are “kurdstan”, then where is Assyria ? Did we come from the moon ?

Fourth point, I’ve heard many times “Ethnic Cleansing against Christians”, this is a contradiction, Ethnic cleansing is against ethnicities, but Christianity is a religion, we must chose 1 of 2: “Ethnic cleansing against Assyrian, Arminians, Greeks” or “Religious cleansing against Christians”, but I say we can use the both because the Genocides were religious and ethnic at the same time, and this why I want to talk about the background of the genocides.

Thank you.

We are gathering in this conference as a minimal duty towards our ancestors who sacrificed themselves for our religious and national existence during the darkest of circumstances where human values were lost, thus exposing the political, social, religious, and moral degeneration surrounding the Christians of the East in general and the Greeks, Arminians and Assyrians in particular. I, as an Assyrian participant in this conference, feel comfortable because I am able to express some of my nation’s concerns and torment throughout history before people who very well understand the meaning of humanity because they are the descendants of one of the greatest civilizations which built the foundations of science, politics, and philosophy.

And my speech will be about: The background of the Genocide, Its consequences and the world’s conscience

The Assyrian genocide will be taken as an example in my speech. And I will present first a brief historical narration because I’m more than sure that many of the attendees have no much idea about the historical facts of the Assyrian genocide.

The human history looks like a chain of interrelated episodes, and these episodes are man-made since people decide their fate through victories and defeats which contain abuses against humanity in order to build a collective structure whether be it economic, social, political or cultural, some based on civilized foundation supported by historical and logical rights while others are based on massacres and supported by the power of degeneration and zeal to shed blood for the sake of ideologies created to fight against humanity, and whomever wants to continue in this historic chain in its ugliness and beauty, has to realize the chain of the past so as to learn from it in building the chain of the present, and based on this, he can build the chain of the future … This is very briefly, the rule of nations continuity.

Thus, we can say that the WW1 was based on economical interests, Europe wanted to expand its market after its industrial revolution and Russia wanted to open a new gate through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelle strait.

The massacres of World War I against the Greeks Armenians and Assyrians, did not come from void, but rather it was an ugly link in the chain of human history which must be known to the world and always remembered, because it had cultural and religious backgrounds based on ideology contradictions within a society which was dominated by the Ottomans for hundreds of years.

Since the days of Sultan Osman the 1st in the 14th century, his son Orkhan Ghazi, and Murad the 3rd, Assyrians, Arminians and Greeks were pursued as the Ottomans occupied Constantinople and the Byzantine culture was destroyed and forcibly replaced by Islam, and over centuries the Christians who are the indigenous people of what is today known as Turkey were subjected to oppression, killing and Islamization according to a “legislation by God” as the occupiers believed and still believe.

We used to hear the weak and useless Turkish argument about our collaboration with Russia before the WW1. But history tells us that the Turks themselves were the ones who first allowed foreigners in, through the Treaty of the Capitulations in 1535 between the French King Francis the 1st and Sultan Suleiman the 1st (Suleiman the magnificent); according to this treaty the French enjoyed the right to protect Christians living in the Ottoman territories, this is how a part of the Armenians became Roman Catholics, and a part of the Assyrians became Roman Catholics under the Ottoman starvation policy and the Vatican exploitation, the Catholic Assyrians have been called “Chaldeans” by the Vatican in 1552. Hence, based on this historical fact, the Ottoman Empire is the one who collaborated with the foreigners and consented to their presence in that territory.

After allowing the Roman Catholic missions to enter Assyria and Armenia, the British Anglican missions were also allowed in, then these missions contributed to inciting the Kurds to slaughter the Assyrian people between 1843 – 1847 in order to shatter the independence of the Assyrian mountainous tribes in the south-east of what is today known as “Turkey”, to allow the penetration of these missionaries within the Assyrian society when previously they were incapable of doing that since the five large Assyrian tribes were not subjects of the Ottoman Sultan and these were: Tiari tribe, Tkhouma, Baz, Jeelo and Dez.

Despite all this, the Christians within the Ottoman occupation (Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians) were always considered as the last citizens and when Sultan Selim the 1st brought in the 16th century the Kurdish tribes from Isfahan and settled them in the Assyrian highlands on the Iranian borders to fight the Shiite Safavids, the Ottoman Empire began using these tribes over the centuries in the killing of Assyrians and Armenians because of their religion which forced them to ask for help from their neighbouring Christian countries especially the strongest, Russia, to save them from the Islamic persecution in the region after the Ottomans neglected their pleas repeatedly.

Frederick Engels gave an example of that in one of his letters to Karl Marx when he said: "As long as the Christians continue to be persecuted by the Ottomans, it's certain that they will look up to the Orthodox Church and its leader of 60 million Orthodox whoever he is, as their liberator and protector ".

What affirms Engels's statement is a letter from the Patriarch Mar Rouil Shimon on May 14th, 1868 to the Russian king Michael. In this letter the Patriarch states:"... We are a poor nation, my people have no enough grain to provide themselves with bread ... The Kurds have forcibly taken many of our Churches and convents, they constantly abduct our virgins, brides , and women, forcing them to turn Moslems ... The Turks are worse, they do not protect us, demand military taxes, poll tax, also the Kurds take our money for they consider us as "Zirr Kurr" (slaves - being Christians .. .)... Now, such being our condition, we beseech your mightiness, for the sake of Jesus, His Baptism, and cross. Either to free us from such a state or to procure us a remedy ... May God preserve you, Amin"

This was the religious background of the hatred against Assyrians, but the greatest scandal took place as the Turkish nationalism was introduced to the Ottoman Sultanate in 1908 - 1909, when loud calls from Turkish officials demanded the ethnic cleansing of all nationalities, in order to preserve the Turkish nationality, one of those was Dr. Nazim Manzar, one of Young Turks Movement leaders who had said: “If it wasn’t for foreign diplomatic intervention, we would have unified all nationalities within the Turkish one creating one culture because we want the Turkish component to live on this land without any other”. Indeed, this opportunity presented itself in 1914 when chaos took over and WWI began.

At the beginning of WWI in the summer of 1914, the Kurdish tribes which were settled in Assyria and Armenia and which formed a cavalry force in the Ottoman army known as the “Hamidian Cavalry” named after Sultan Abdulhamid the 2nd, backed by other Turkish battalions they headed to the Assyrian plain villages in the east of what’s today known as “Turkey” as well as the Assyrian villages in Tur Abdin in the south-east and the Salamas plain in western Iran, where they killed thousands, burned cities, towns, villages, ancient monasteries and churches and kidnapped women and girls under the banner of “Jihad”.

On March 05th 1915, the Baku Newspaper reported that 20 Assyrian villages were completely destroyed while the bodies of women and children laid in the streets with marks of daggers and cleavers on them, and on March 15th 1915, the Tbilisi Newspaper described the Kurdish tribes’ attacks lead by Turkish officers as being barbaric, that was a little of what the newspapers had mentioned then, All this was taking place while the Assyrians had not joined the war. But as the massacres continued against them, adding all this religious, national and social degeneration surrounding the indigenous peoples of the Middle East, Assyrians were obliged to seek help from those who shared their religious beliefs as they did not have any other recourse since their killers and looters were either the ruling authorities or their gangs.

The Assyrian Patriarch Mar Binyamin Shimon (who was later martyred) declared that the Assyrians joined the war to Russia’s side in self-defense and for liberation from the Ottoman occupation and oppression. This decision was made during a meeting between the Patriarch and tribal leaders in the Diz area on June 10th 1915.

These facts are an answer to those who claim that Assyrians collaborated with Russians before the massacres, in addition, hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Assyrians were massacred also in Tur Abdin area and its surroundings, knowing that they did not have any contact with any foreign state in the first place.

Even after the Assyrian tribesmen were armed, Turkey and its Kurdish recruits did not differentiate between a civilian and a military; genocides were repeated against the Assyrians in the Assyrian highlands known as the Hakkari Mountains, as well as in the vicinity of Urmia. One of the Assyrian death marches is described by the Russian thinker Victor Chklovski who lived through the massacres of 1918, mentioning in his memoirs that after Russia withdrew from the war following the Bolshevik revolution, a convoy of 230.000 Assyrians fled on foot in the summer of 1918 from the city of Urmia for a distance of 800 km towards the Iranian mountains and plains heading to Hamadan in the south where the British were settled, during that journey 85.000 Assyrian women and children were killed due to Turkish and Kurdish and Iranian attacks while 15.000 also on foot were killed as their convoy headed to the north, towards Russia and Georgia.

Thus, after fleeing Urmia and Hakkari, Assyrians were caught in the British trap, as Britain began inciting the Arabs in Iraq against the Assyrians causing the 1933 massacre in occupied Assyria, which claimed the lives of thousands of women, men and children.

The official records such as the Russian, British and even Turkish correspondence, confirm that between 1914 and 1922, Turkey had led its armies which invaded the unarmed Assyrian, Armenian and Greeks’ villages and towns and committed ethnic cleansing whereby about 600.000 Assyrians, the equivalent of two thirds of the Assyrian nation at the time were massacred.

This falls within the definition of "genocide" as adopted by the United Nations in 1948, since it covers ethnic cleansing in accordance with the following specifications of the United Nations:

1-Unjustified Mass murder.
2-Physical and spiritual damage to a group.
3-Mass starvation with the intent of social destruction.
4-Transferring children forcibly to other cultures and societies.

The human and political results of the Genocide against the Assyrian Nation were as follows:

1-Eradication of two-thirds of the Assyrian nation between the years 1915 – 1922.
2-Diseases and epidemics that killed 33.000 Assyrians in British detention centers in Iraq, which the British called "refugee camps".
3-Abduction of thousands of women and children who were taken to the homes of Muslims (Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Iranians).
4-Considering the Assyrians in Iraq as British collaborators when Iraq itself was made in England, noting that King Faisal was a Saudi who was brought by Britain to rule Iraq.
5-Lack of understanding on the part of the Iraqi state regarding the Assyrians’ rights due to its Ottoman culture, which resulted in the massacre of 1933 against the Assyrian people in 6-villages in Occupied Assyria.
7-The exile of a large number of Assyrians to Syria after being accused of creating chaos despite the massacres against them.
8-The demise of the Assyrian language and culture in the Diaspora day after day due to mixing of the Assyrians with foreign cultures.

In addition to other negative effects which contributed significantly to the weakening of the Assyrian presence.

Hence, all the legal pretexts to hinder the recognition of Genocide are void, and the yielding of the international community to a law which was drafted by it, is a moral duty, and since the international community recognized the Genocide against the Jews, as well as in Sudan and Yugoslavia, it can also recognize the Genocide against the Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks because the crimes against these peoples are not less than those committed against others whom we have mentioned.

The reality though seems to be different, because so far we have not faced any difficulties in considering the Turkish killings as “Genocide” except through illegal political hindrances, since parliaments which are the legislative power are recognizing the Genocide while governments or the executive authorities of a state are always the ones denying it. For example:
In Sweden and following the recognition of the Swedish Parliament that the Turkish organized killings against the Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks were Genocides, the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt expressed his regret at the Parliament’s decision and voiced his concern regarding Turkey’s position.

In the United States, the Genocide against our Armenian brothers were used as a campaigning card for Barack Obama, whereby after the U.S. Congress adopted the decision to recognize the Genocide, Obama expressed his rejection and at the same time said that he did not regret using the term “Genocide” during his campaign, as was reported by Agence France Presse on April 25, 2009.

We find much worse situation in Greece as the Greek Parliament has refused recognizing the systematic crimes against Greeks, Armineans and Assyrians, as a Genocide, and I’m really shocked that until now the proposal have been presented 4 times to the Greek parliament and was rejected.

How can we ask others to recognize our genocides, when our own countries are still denying ? what was the feeling of Greece when Sweden recognized it’s people’s genocide before it.

It’s really a shame that this country who gave the basis of democracy is still putting the political interest above the national interest. If denying the Genocides by Turkey is for a political interest, than the dignity of the Greek martyrs is a national interest, and we the second generation of the genocides survivors, should consider Greece as the European key for Genocides recognition. And demonstrations, should take place in Athens in front of the Greek parliament where Assyrian, Greek and Armenians flags will be razed high, because the dignity of the Greek martyrs is our martyrs’ dignity; they all have been martyred for the same reasons, from the same background, and by the same criminals.

Thus, it is clear to us that our journey in the ocean of lies and international plots is long, hence, we have to establish our demands in an unshakable manner, that begins with countries directly concerned with the archived facts of the Genocide beginning with Greece, and other countries such as Russia, France, UK, Germany because these countries’ voice is heard in international forums, and it wouldn't be enough for Turkey to reform its constitution and try to submit to the Copenhagen criteria, to deserve the membership of any international group, be it European Union or any other, because first, Turkey should prove its loyalty to the humanitarian norms, by correcting the mistakes of the past.

The international community's neglect of this issue is like a second Genocide and disrespect for the concepts of humanity, and the most dangerous thing is that this silence is considered as an incitement for more expected Genocides against the weak people in the world, including the Assyrian people whom I present as an example.

And because of the Genocide against the Assyrian nation, also because of the European betrayal in general, and the English betrayal in particular, to the Assyrians, the Assyrian nation is still stateless, and that’s why it’s still facing a new genocide.

The Assyrian people are still living amongst the degenerate factions ruling Iraq, without any protection or international attention whereby more than 500.000 Assyrians migrated from Iraq within seven years since 2003, while only 300.000 had migrated during 35 years of Saddam Hussein’s rule, all this is taking place while the international community is watching and presenting some deadly solutions such as forcing the Assyrian Nation to migrate and flee its historical lands, obliterating its culture and dissolving it within the western societies under the banner of “Saving the Christians of Iraq”.

The same policy which was followed before and during the massacres of WWI, is practiced today against the Assyrians throughout Iraq and particularly under the Kurdish Occupation of Assyria, where the Kurdish tribes use the policy of polite persecution by giving fictitious religious rights while obliterating the national existence of the land and people through the culture of kurdification in the schools of the Kurdish Occupation zone, whereby the Assyrian generations and others are growing up according to the curriculum of Kurdification, in addition to the occupation of Assyrian lands and inventing impossible laws when legitimate owners ask for their lands, also throughout Iraq Islamization and forced displacement have reached an insolent state which confirms that there is a religious and ethnic cleansing against the Assyrians and all this is legislated within the Iraqi constitution which instigates the Islamization of Iraq and the Kurdification of its north while it is void of the equality principle in federalism, even though and according to international laws protecting the indigenous people, the right of equality is the least of what the Assyrians should get, being the indigenous people of Iraq and in danger of extinction.

Our presence here is not just to give long speeches because they have been given already by many scholars worldwide, and our intention is not the revenge, rather than guaranteeing a better future for the current generation of the survivors of the genocides.

Based on the narrative of events and their consequences, and based on the world moral obligation towards humanity, the Assyrian Nation is very interested in historically holding accountable those who committed crimes against humanity during World War I, according to the international legislation that’s why the organizers of this occasion must continue to strongly bind all parties concerned in order to raise our voice together to avoid the repetition of what happened, and in order to intercept the degenerate currents and societies so they would realize that there is no room for committing such crimes against humanity anywhere in the world again.

Thank You Very much for listening …

Link to Assyrian Voice, forum, here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Christian Kidnapped and Murdered in Northern Iraq After Ransom Paid

A glazier (by profession?) Christian was kidnapped and killed in northern Iraq, despite the payment of a ransom of 15,000 dollars per family, police said Friday.

The badly decomposed body of Louaï Barham al-Malik, an Assyrian glazier 35, was found in a vacant lot at Nimrud, 330 km north of Baghdad, said police Lt. Col. Mohammad al-Omar Joubouri.

He had recently been working in Hamdaniya, a predominantly Christian village, following threats and killings against this community in Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province.

Link to French article... at Le Point Fr...

Two Churches Reopened in Southeastern Turkey

Ankara (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After 30 years, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Mor Eşayo and Mor Kuryakuş were reopened yesterday in the village of Midyat's Yemişli in the region of Mardin, south-eastern Turkey.

Mor Eşayo and Mor Kuryakuş respectively of the fourth and sixth centuries, had been closed since the 1980s and were restored by 72 Syrian families, who spent 600 thousand Turkish lira (about 300 thousand euros).

Hundreds of people belonging to the Syrian Orthodox communities from around the world attended the inaugural Mass presided by Mor Timetheos Samuel Aktaş, Metropolitan Bishop of Tur Abdin. In Turkey, the Syrian Orthodox church has 5 thousand faithful.

Tuma Çelik vice-president of the European Syriac Association, spoke at the ceremony: "The Syrians who live in countries far from their land - he said - actually live here in mind and spirit. Want to return to rest in this land". "The existence of the Syrians in Turkey - he added - is not recognized by the Constitution, it should be. If the government build infrastructure to improve the social, cultural and economic conditions, that the Syrians who return will grow quickly".
Sources told AsiaNews that "in eastern Turkey, the Syrian Orthodox community is very active and that Ankara is making positive overtures towards them."

Original, at

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A priest speaks on the situation of Christians in Iraq

The following is an interview by Katholische Nachrichten Agentur about the situation in Iraq.

Translation by staff translator: MD

"Europeans do not know who we are"

Saturday, 22. Mai 2010 um 08:19

There are few Christians in Baghdad. Saad Sirop Hanna (45) is one of the last priests in the Iraqi capital. He heads the Chaldean Catholic community of St. Joseph. Hanna, who himself comes from Baghdad, has decided after studying aeronautical engineering to theology and the priesthood. In the interview, the Catholic News Agency (KNA) Hanna reports on the life of the last Christians in Baghdad.(Image: Flag of the Chaldean Catholic Church)

KNA: What is the situation in your community here in Baghdad?

Hanna: We are Chaldeans, our church was built in 1959 and is the largest church in Baghdad. Because of emigration are now living in our community still about 400 to 500 families. Previously we had up to 1,500 families. As you saw, our churches are under police protection. The officials in front of the church are Christians in the police service.

KNA: When you decided in 1995 to become a priest, it was a very difficult time for Iraq.

Hanna: Yes, yes, we lived under a ban. But in terms of safety, it was better then than now. Since 2003, there is unfortunately no security in Baghdad, nor in most other cities of Iraq. There was bad and even worse years since then. 2004 and 2005, it was not as bad as 2006 and 2007, for example. 2008 there was again a bit better because the government campaigned for reconciliation. But it is still difficult. There are so many fanatical Muslims who now live completely different from our Muslim brothers and friends from the past. They think differently and they behave differently towards us Christians.

KNA: Why this change? What happened?

Hanna: After 2003 there is a misconception among the Muslims about the identity of Christian community here in Iraq. Many Muslims consider us as people from the West because we are Christians. It will bring us to the Americans and British in connection, because this way we are Christians. But we are different, and we constantly try to make that clear. Yes, we Christians like the Americans and Brits are, but we are Iraqis. Christianity in Iraq dates back to the first Century back, it is 1900 years old. The other issue is the political conflict between the Iraqi parties. A reconciliation between the Sunnis and Shiites is hard and we are in between.

KNA: Does the lack of knowledge about the Christians in Iraq to do with lack of education?

Hanna: I can only agree to a lack of education, humanitarian education. How to evaluate a person as a person and not whether he's Christian or Muslim. In general, the educational situation is very bad in Iraq. There is a lack of good schools, good teachers and good textbooks. In this respect things must necessarily change.

KNA: Many Christians have been threatened, kidnapped, killed. Have you had bad personal experience?

Hanna: Yes, I was on 15 August 2006 kidnapped. I was the first priest in Baghdad who was abducted. 28 days I was in the hands of a fanatical Muslim group. In that time I have learned a lot about myself and about the relationship between the religions. 2008 I came back to Baghdad, because I love Baghdad. , I love Iraq and I love my people, so I wanted to continue working here as a priest. I also have a lot of Muslim friends here.

KNA: Do you feel sometimes forgotten by the Christians in Europe?

Hanna: Sometimes yes, even if we have a few priests and organizations, especially from Germany really good relationship. For example "the Church in Need helps many people here in Iraq and has also helped me. But sometimes I get the impression that in Europe does not understand the history of Christians in Iraq. The Europeans do not know who we are, how we live here, what we do here, they know our church does not, they do not know how to pray. It is so important to exchange ideas in order to understand how faith has been implemented in different societies. (By Karin Leukefeld - CBA)

Interview from KNA cited on the Angelus Press German Site of the SSPX.

Similar article from the Tablet, UK, which claims that a younger priest of the same name was murdered last year. Father Hanna was kidnapped, but released by his captors, thank God.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fourth Christian killed in northern Iraq

By Mujahid Mohammed (AFP)

MOSUL, Iraq — A Christian student was found dead in the main northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday, the fourth in as many days, amid warnings of rising violence against the minority ahead of March 7 polls.

The bullet-riddled body of Wissam George, a 20-year-old Assyrian Christian, was recovered on a street in the south Mosul residential neighbourhood of Wadi al-Ain at around 1:00 pm (1000 GMT).

"George went missing this morning on his way to his institute, he was studying to be a teacher," said a police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

George is the fourth Christian since Sunday to be killed in the city, which has a Christian population of between 2,000 and 3,000.

"What can we say?" said Bishop Shlemon Warduni, the second-most-senior Chaldean bishop in Iraq.

"We are very sad. The government is looking at what is going on, it is speaking, but doing nothing," he told AFP.

On Tuesday, a gunman killed 21-year-old engineering student Zia Toma and wounded 22-year-old pharmacy student Ramsin Shmael, both Assyrian Christians.

Greengrocer Fatukhi Munir was gunned down inside his shop in a drive-by shooting late on Monday, and armed assailants killed Rayan Salem Elias, a Chaldean, outside his home on Sunday.

"We don't want elections, we don't want representatives, we don't want our rights, we just want to be alive," Baasil Abdul Noor, a priest at Mar Behnam church, said on Tuesday.

"It has become a nightmare. The security forces should not be standing by and watching. We hold them responsible, because they are supposed to be protecting us, and protecting all Iraqis."

Others have expressed concern that Christians could be targeted ahead of the elections, seen as a key test of reconciliation in Iraq, which has been wracked by sectarian violence since the US-led invasion of 2003.

"The Christian minority has become an issue in the elections, as it always is before elections," said Hazem Girgis, a deacon at a Syrian Orthodox church in the city centre.

"We are terrified... and the security forces are not able to offer us any security," said Girgis.

Attacks occur frequently in Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province.

Human Rights Watch warned in November that minorities in the north including Christians were the collateral victims of a conflict between Arabs and Kurds over who controls Iraq's disputed northern provinces.

In late 2008, a systematic campaign of killings and targeted violence killed 40 Christians and saw more than 12,000 flee Mosul.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Catholic Bishops in Paper: Iraq War Caused Extremism; Christians Are Victims

[Memri/Al Zaman, Iraq] According to a preparatory document for the Synod of the Catholic Bishops in the Middle East, to be held later this year, the relationship between Muslims and Christians in the entire regime are going through difficult times because of what it called the growth of "political Islam" and the mingling of religion and politics.

Read further...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mosul Welcomes New Archbishop, Mourns Murders

MOSUL, Iraq, JAN. 19, 2010 ( Sunday was bittersweet for Mosul Catholics, who celebrated the arrival of their new archbishop while also mourning the murder of one of the faithful.

Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona, whose election as the archbishop of Mosul of the Chaldeans was confirmed Nov. 13 by Benedict XVI, was officially installed in the archeparchy Sunday.

AsiaNews reported that the same day, Saadallah Youssif Jorjis, a 52-year-old Syrian Catholic, a husband and father of two daughters, was shot dead.

The news source, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the "persecution continues in the midst of general indifference."

He asserted that this "ethnic cleansing" currently taking place in Mosul is "very similar to what happened in 2008."

"They want to push Christians to the plain of Nineveh, and the community has lost confidence in the future," the source added.

Jorjis owned a produce shop near his home, and was married to a woman who worked as a nurse.

A few days earlier, on Jan. 12, another grocer, Hikmat Sleiman, 75, was killed by an armed group.

Archbishop Rahho

The 2008 wave of violence claimed the life of the former archbishop of Mosul of the Chaldeans, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho.

He was kidnapped in February of that year outside of a church where he had led the Way of the Cross on a Lenten Friday. During the kidnapping, his three companions were killed.

For days there was no news from the archbishop or his kidnappers. Finally, after a phone call from the assailants, the prelate's body was found March 13 in a shallow grave. He was 65.

The election of Archbishop Nona took place according to the tradition in the Eastern-rite Churches. The synod of bishops of the Chaldean Church made the decision, which was then approved by the Pope.

Sunday's ceremony for Archbishop Nona was attended by several political and Muslim leaders.

Link to original...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Persecution Against Christians Continues in Iraq

Mosul (AsiaNews) - Attacks continue against Christians to push them to flee from Iraq. Yesterday afternoon Zhaki Homo Bashir, a Christian deacon, was hit by gunfire from a group of unknown criminals. The man had just entered his shop located in the district of al Jadida. Seriously injured, he was transported to hospital. AsiaNews published the news yesterday of the kidnapping a college student from an Islamic group.

Asia News...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chaldean Church attacked and Election Candidate Killed in Bomb Attack

Church hit and election candidate killed in Iraq attacks
By Mujahid Mohammed (AFP) – 14 hours ago

MOSUL, Iraq — A pre-Christmas attack on a church killed two people in the Iraqi city of Mosul Wednesday while a Sunni Arab candidate died in a bombing in Fallujah, the first such murder ahead of March polls.

They were among 13 people killed in violence across the country, despite security forces ramping up their presence ahead of Christmas and the Shiite commemoration ceremonies of Ashura.

In Mosul, two people were killed and five others wounded Wednesday morning when "a handcart used to carry flour, left across the street from the Syrian Orthodox church of St Thomas, exploded," witness Hamis Paulos said.

A hospital official in the main northern city said the two people killed were Muslims, based on examination of their identity papers.

"Christians are being targeted during Christmas time -- the security forces, police and army must provide security, the police and army are responsible for this," said Father Abdul Massih Dalmay of the church.

"Is the number of security forces not enough? There is negligence on the part of the security forces."

The attack was the sixth on Christians in Mosul in less than a month, and came after the army said it put its forces on alert in areas with significant Christian populations because of intelligence they could be attacked.

In the former rebel bastion of Fallujah, a Sunni Arab candidate for parliamentary elections on March 7 was killed in a "sticky bomb" attack.

Saud al-Essawi of the Iraqi Unity Alliance (IUA) and his two bodyguards were killed when a magnetic bomb attached to his car exploded in the city, 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

The IUA is a multi-confessional grouping led by Ahmed Abu Risha, a key Sunni leader who turned against Al-Qaeda to play a major role in reversing Iraq's insurgency, and current interior minister Jawad al-Bolani, an independent Shiite.

Iraqi political leaders and senior American generals have expressed concerns in recent months about violence linked to the election.

The security situation in Fallujah has improved dramatically in recent years.

Since 2006, Sunni tribesmen and former rebels, known as the Sahwa (Awakening) movement, have made common cause with the US military against Al-Qaeda, greatly reducing the jihadists' presence in the area.

In Baghdad, violence killed six people, including three men at a Shiite mourning ceremony as worshippers were participating in Ashura rituals.

Twenty-eight others were wounded, including four women and five children, in the bomb attack in the east Baghdad neighbourhood of Mashtal, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another person was killed and four wounded by a bomb at a Shiite mosque in the capital's central shopping district of Karrada, police said.

Security officials have said they will increase their presence during Ashura, which in the past has been used by Sunni extremists to target Shiites. In the holy shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf, for example, 46,000 policemen and soldiers will be out in force.

Also in Baghdad, Brigadier General Riad Abdel Majid, an inspector for the defence ministry, was killed by "unknown persons who opened fire on him while he was in front of his house," an official said a day after the attack.

A magnetic "sticky bomb" affixed to a minibus in the predominantly Shiite north Baghdad district of Kadhimiyah killed one person and wounded three at around midday (0900 GMT) on Wednesday, a police official said.

Outside of Baquba city, northeast of Baghdad, two Sahwa militiamen, including local Awakening leader Adnan Serhid, were killed by a roadside bomb, according to a policeman who did not want to be named.

The Sahwa, known as the "Sons of Iraq" by the US army, joined American and Iraqi forces to wage war in 2006 and 2007 against Al-Qaeda and its supporters, leading to a dramatic fall in violence.

Attacks still remain common however in Baghdad, Mosul and some other areas.

Link to original...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Growing Power of Iraqi Kurdistan Could Backfire on Iran

Iran’s strategy to break Iraq into three component territories, and to dominate those territories in order to reduce regional opposition and to gain unfettered access to Syria and the Mediterranean as a result of the Western invasion of Iraq in 2004, has had profound success.

The country is now, at best, a federation, with elements of a slide toward confederacy or even the breaking away of some territory. Iran dominates, and will increasingly dominate, the Shi’a-controlled central heartland and the Government of Iraq, particularly when US and Coalition forces depart. Iraq’s northern — and predominantly Kurdish — region is now virtually an independent state. It is certainly an autonomous state.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two More Bombs in Mosul Targeting Chaldeans

By John Pontifex

SHOCK and fear have gripped the Church in Iraq after two explosions on the same day with the threat of more to come.

The Al Beshara (Annunciation) Syrian Catholic Church in Mosul was the first to be targeted at 10.30am on he 15th of December when a bomb was placed against an outside wall of the building.

A minor explosion took place with damage to the wall. Nobody was hurt. Youngsters at a nearby kindergarten had a lucky escape.

Within a few hours, a second, much bigger bomb had gone off at the Al Gahera (Our Lady of Purity) Syrian Orthodox Church, also in Mosul.

A number of people were injured in the explosion which caused major damage to the church in the crowded Al Shefaa district in the city centre.

Speaking from northern Iraq in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Fr Bashar Warda described the “fear and shock” of the people who looked forward to Christmas as a time to “lift our spirits”.

Meantime, the government in Baghdad has warned Church leaders of further attacks over the Christmas period, urging priests and religious Sisters to be especially vigilant.
Fr Warda said the Church would continue its Christmas preparations undeterred.
The Redemptorist priest based in Ankawa, outside the Kurdish capital, Erbil, added: “Normally Christmas is a time when we lift our spirits with a number of festivities so you can imagine what the atmosphere is like here now.
“The shock and the fear of the people is very strong.”

He described talking to Al Beshara parish priest Father Nazen Eshoa, who returned to Mosul to resume his ministry despite being kidnapped for a few days last year.
“Fr Nazen – like all of us – is shocked but he wants to continue preparing for Christmas as much as possible.”

The identity of the attackers is as yet unknown and Church leaders do not know if there is a link between the attacks in Mosul and the threats declared in Baghdad.
The attacks come less than three weeks after bomb attacks – again in Mosul – inflicting serious damage to St Ephrem’s Chaldean Church and a nearby convent.
Nobody was hurt in the attacks, on 26th November, although at least five Chaldean Sisters were in the convent when it came under fire.

Link to original...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Office of Chalden Patriarch Under Attack

Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad revealed yesterday that the offices of the Chaldean Patriarchate in the Iraqi capital were damaged by the terrorist attacks on Tuesday that left 127 dead and 500 wounded, reports Catholic News Agency.

According to the SIR news agency, the bishop noted that “fortunately only the buildings were damaged. The sisters and the Patriarch were not present at the time of the explosion. They had left to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“Doors, windows, window panes were all blown out, and the walls were also damaged,” he added.

Bishop Warduni said Baghdad residents are convinced that those behind the attacks are linked to political groups. “What is left now is the great desperation, pain and suffering of death that haunts our people,” the prelate concluded.

Link to original...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two Chaldean Catholics Shot in Mosul

Mosul, Iraq - Two brothers, both Iraqi Christians, were found shot dead in a suburb of the troubled northern Iraqi city of Mosul, police told the German Press Agency dpa on Thursday. Police found the two businessmen dead from multiple gunshot wounds north of the city late on Wednesday night, they said.

The pair were among Christians who fled the city amid violence and threats against the Christian community two years ago, but subsequently returned home. Mosul and its environs are among the most ethnically and religiously diverse areas of Iraq, and among the most dangerous.

Despite successive security pushes that police say have netted hundreds of suspected insurgents, armed groups continue to launch near-daily attacks.

Meanwhile, some 200 kilometres to the south a man who had been abducted from the village of Tuz was found dead, police there said.

Link to original...

Disappearing Eastern Catholicism: Middle East Synod 2010

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI has called synod of the churches in the Middle East for an October 2010. Preparation for this event requires understanding of the situation that surrounds this part of the world and the difficult problems that the churches there are suffering.

First there is widespread conflict. There is one that has lasted for decades, between Israel and Palestine, and associated with it, other situations of war that have arisen in other countries.

Then there is the political changes that have taken place in Iran since '79, which brought to the fore the Shiite movement. In many countries where it exists, it is becoming its self-awareness is growing, although this often takes on the form of confrontation.

A third factor is the rise of Islamic terrorism in the countries of the Middle East which is spreading throughout the world. Added to this the war in Iraq and its consequences. All of these political situations are somehow inter-connected.

Another important dimension is the growth of the Islamic fundamentalist movement. This has changed the very social structure of the region which has for decades seen the insistence of Islamic discourse in the media; schools are permeated with the teachings Islam, especially fundamentalist Islam; on the streets religious adverts are an increasing; the traditional external or extremist signs of this trend. In some countries the growth of fundamentalism has encouraged the adoption of sharia, or part of sharia. This has a strong influence on the lives of Christians, because they are forced to behave in a "more Islamic" way, often suffering social exclusion as a result.

Even in Palestine in the last decade the once prevalent secular trend has greatly diminished and the fundamentalist trend has increased. Religious freedom has declined everywhere, choking the Church's mission.


The easiest response for Christians to this situation tends to be one that is both equal and opposite: affirming the Christian identity with more stringency; a hardening of relations among themselves. This is evident in Egypt, but also in other situations.

Another way to react is to emigrate. Everyone, Christians and Muslims emigrate for socio-economic reasons, rarely for religious reasons. But the number of Christians who emigrate is far higher than that of Muslims and among the reasons why Christians leave those of cultural, and moral freedom are mounting. Emigration is facilitated by the fact that many Christians have relatives and friends abroad, the result of past migrations.

In the case of Egypt it is clear: Muslim migration has always been temporary, to the Gulf countries, people leave for a few years and then return. Instead Christians emigrate to North America or Europe or Australia, transplanting themselves in a comprehensive manner.

Emigration is not an entirely negative factor: it can also be opportunity for renewal. The Coptic community in the United States, for example, counts at least 700 thousand faithful. These were compared with American or Australian culture and sought to maintain the Coptic tradition - such as fasting, which is very intense and long - and respect for the clergy and for their Church. At the same time they have found other ways to celebrate, a greater closeness to the Holy Scriptures, Western theology. This has allowed for a true ecumenism and openness to other religious communities. And this is a positive contribution to their church.

Emigration has positive aspects also from an economic standpoint because it supports families and churches back home.

The presence of Islamic fundamentalism has positive aspects: it encourages Christians to live their faith in a more radical and intimate way, because there is an attack on their faith. Religious feeling is strengthened; at times, this religious sentiment in Christians and Muslims tends to fanaticism, but more often it arouses the desire for greater reflection, freedom and discovery.

The mission of the Christian minority

What makes matters worse is the fact numeric: Christians are a minority, they have neither numbers nor militias to claim a space. Their presence is neither supported in the region - because it is overwhelmingly Muslim - nor abroad because Europe and America are uninterested in the fate of Christians. When interest is aroused it is because the plight of Christians is linked to the economic and political situation.

We must take stock of these reasons in order to understand what future Christians have in the Middle East. And this is the purpose of the Synod: first comprehend the situation and then look for possible paths of action.

Many Christians are tempted to emigrate. This choice weakens those who remain: those leaving are generally the most capable in cultural and economic terms, and those who stay the weakest and the poorest. This is likely to provoke a vicious circle: the more people leave the more those who remain are oppressed. A similar thing happened in Turkey. Today there are more Syriac faithful in Saudi Arabia (migrants from India) than in Turkey and Syria combined. On a personal level, Christians a re highly adaptable to all situations. This means that in a one to two generations, Christians abroad become permanent residents and part of another Christian community.

But the question is: have Christians a specific mission in the Middle East?

If one thinks about the consequences for communities worldwide, it must be said that there is a risk of a great loss for world culture and the Universal Church: the end of the Churches of the East. Within a few decades a large part of the theological and intellectual heritage of the Churches of the East would be cancelled. And no book can replace it.

Severe loss

But it would be a great loss for the countries of the East. Christians are a different voice, a challenging one, diverse from Israel and the Muslims, with a specific culture that enriches this cultural area. It would also be a loss for society because Christians represent a tradition of freedom, of openness that is partly missing in the Islamic tradition, which is more closed in on itself.

This phenomenon has occurred many times in history: the Assyrian Christians who between the eighth century and the twelfth introduced Hellenistic thought in philosophy, medicine, science. And in 800 and 900, they also introduced European thought through their translations. They are a cultural bridge. And for the same Islamic world their disappearance would be a loss. In short, the emigration of Christians abroad and their disappearance from the East would be a loss for everyone, first and foremost for Muslims themselves.

Link to link...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bomb Destroys Church in Iraq

MOSUL: Bombs hit a church and a convent in the main northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday, causing severe damage but no casualties, religious leaders said.

One of the attacks hit the St. Theresa Convent of Dominican Nuns in the western Mosul Jadida (New Mosul) district, the chief representative of the Dominican order in Iraq, Father Yousif Thomas Mirkis, told AFP.

‘These attacks are aimed at forcing Christians to leave the country,’ he said noting that the bomb had been placed inside the convent grounds. The second bomb struck the Church of St. Ephrem in the same district, causing major damage to the church building, Patriarchal Vicar George Basman said. ‘It caused major damage and we cannot pray there,’ he said, adding: ‘There were no casualties because it was a working day.’Thousands of Christians fled Mosul last year because of violence that claimed the lives of 40 people from the community.

A report this month by Human Rights Watch said minority groups in northern Iraq, including Christians, have fallen victim to a struggle between Arabs and Kurds for control of a raft of disputed districts.

The Kurds have long laid claim to northern districts which they say had historical Kurdish majorities, including parts of Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, the whole of the oil province of Kirkuk, and parts of Diyala and Salaheddin. Since the US-led invasion of 2003, hundreds of Iraqi Christians have been killed and several churches attacked.

Around 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq at the time of the invasion, but their number has since shrunk by a third or more as members of the community have fled abroad, according to Christian leaders. Although violence has dropped dramatically across Iraq compared to last year, attacks remain common in Mosul and the capital Baghdad.


Asia News article...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Syrian Archbishop Al-Jamil addresses Christian Persecution in Iraq

In a talk sponsored by "Save the Monasteries" foundation, Archbishop Archbishop Al-Jamil, procurator of the Syrian-Catholic Patriarchate in Rome has given a talk about the perils and plights facing Catholics in Iraq who, despite having made significant contributions to Iraqi society in the past are now in danger of disappearing from the country entirely if the situation of current Muslim hostility is not addressed. Before the war, Christians were highly respected and considered an integral part of Iraq, but things have changed.

Link to article in Zenit...

Earlier discussion where Archbishop Al-Jamil addresses the question in 2007, link...

An independent Kurdistan...article.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Iraqi Bishop Holds Catholic Mass at COB Adder

By: Sgt. Matthew E. Jones on: Sun Nov. 15, 2009

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – The acting bishop of Basra held Catholic Mass here Nov. 7 in honor of the service members and civilians working toward a safer, more secure Iraq.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Pope approves Election of New Iraq Archbishop

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than 20 months after the body of kidnapped Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, was recovered, Pope Benedict XVI approved the election of a new archbishop for the city. The synod of bishops of the Chaldean Catholic Church elected Father Emil Shimoun Nona, an official of the Archdiocese of Alqosh, to succeed Archbishop Rahho. Pope Benedict gave his consent to the election, the Vatican announced Nov. 13. Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped Feb. 29, 2008, in an attack that left his driver and two bodyguards dead. Church leaders recovered the archbishop's body two weeks later after the kidnappers told them where they had buried him. Archbishop-elect Nona, who celebrated his 42nd birthday Nov. 1, was born in Alqosh, about 20 miles north of Mosul. Latest news briefs from Catholic News Service Posted: 11/13/2009