Pride on Saving Christianity in Iraq

Jonathan Pride (Student, Harvard Law) has posted Saving an Ancient Community: Christianity in Iraq. The abstract follows.

The Christian community in Iraq has survived conquests by Arabs, Huns, and Turks over the two millennia since the birth of Christianity. However, the latest danger to Iraq’s Christians, who include Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Catholics, poses the largest threat that this community has faced yet. In post-Saddam Iraq, a lethal combination of a Western “other” Christian identity, Islamic extremism, and a depressed economy has taken an enormous toll on Christians in Iraq. Their communities all over the country have been devastated by violence against men, women, children, and community symbols like priests, bishops, and churches. Because they only numbered about 1.5 million before the fall of Saddam Hussein, these attempts to terrorize and scare away Christians threaten the very existence of Christianity in Iraq.

In response to violence inside Iraq, many Christians have fled the country or become internally displaced, fleeing to traditionally Christian areas in Northern Iraq. Though their situations outside Iraq as registered or unregistered refugees may be difficult, those who are a part of the Christian Iraqi diaspora are hesitant to return to their homeland due to the systematic violence and discrimination they have faced and may face again. Can international action or internal, government programs do anything to save Christianity in Iraq?

To answer this question, I will address a number of issues. First, I will explore the underlying causes of the historical violence against Christians, taking a deeper look at the construction of the Christian identity as the Western “other.” Second, I will consider the current situation facing Iraqi Christian refugees and internally displaced peoples. Finally, I will propose remedies that seek to encourage Christian Iraqis to either remain in or return to Iraq. These remedies include 1) deconstructing Christians’ “other” identity through constitutional changes and civil society initiatives, 2) creating a semi-autonomous “safe haven” for Christians inside Iraq, and 3) encouraging international economic assistance to revive devastated Christian communities. Though my suggestions are to promote a continuing Christian presence in Iraq, they are by no means a definitive solution. There is still time to save Christianity in Iraq, but it remains uncertain whether the community will ever fully recover from the devastation of the last ten years.

Seeking Moral Guidance on the Iraq Withdrawal

On December 15, 2011, President Obama formally announced the end of the eight-and-a-half year Iraq war.  American troop presence in Iraq has dwindled to a fraction of its former strength:  In 2007, 170,000 Coalition troops occupied Iraq from 505 bases; in December, 2011, 4000 operated there from only two.  President Obama has also said he will not send any more troops to Iraq, even if the nation devolves into civil war; instead, America’s role will be limited to a political one, using diplomacy to resolve future conflicts.

Our war, then, is essentially over.  But whether war is over for Iraqis is a separate question, one with significant moral import for the United States.  Though American troops will be gone, Iraqis still face the specters of terrorism, government oppression, and civil war.  And because America started hostilities in 2003—whether justly or unjustly—it bears at least some responsibility to aid the nation it now leaves to its own devices.  Major religious bodies like the Catholic and Anglican Churches have yet to speak directly to this grave issue, one essential to America’s moral obligations to the Iraqi people.

What moral guidance, then, can we draw upon to evaluate this moment in contemporary history?  Shall we be overjoyed that a war is over, or shall we lament a moral failure?

For more on the situation in Iraq and a moral discussion of our withdrawal, please follow the jump. Continue reading

Iraq’s Christians: Those Who Remain

The US pulled its troops out of Iraq this weekend, ending the 9-year long Iraq war. The ultimate consequences of the war — for Iraq, the Middle East, and the United States itself — remain to be seen. We won’t really know for generations. One thing that seems clear at the moment, though, is that the US-led invasion was a catastrophe for Iraq’s Christians. Before the war, Iraq had about 1.5 million Christians. The fall of the secular Ba’ath government left them exposed to killings, threats, and intimidation by radical Islamic elements. About a million Christians have fled the country. This LA Times piece offers a sad reflection on the state of those who remain.

%d bloggers like this: