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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Down by the rivers of Babylon.

A bleak story in the New York Times this morning reports that Iraqi Christians are in desperate straits. Nothing unites like hatred, and the sectarian Muslim violence in Iraq has found at least one common homegrown enemy: the Christian churches, no matter how ancient, which are being linked to "the crusaders" and to the newly unpopular Benedict XVI. (The article points a finger at Benedict, but the U.S., which has devastated an appalling number of Iraqi lives in our Rumsfeldian folly, is more directly to blame for making Christians vulnerable.)

In the midst of a lot of depressing examples is this bit of long-historical context:

Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world's oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq.

Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country's largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Curiously missing, however, is the most famous biblical place in Iraq: Babylon.

("Iraq's Christians flee as extremist threat worsens," Michael Luo, New York Times 10.17.06, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 17 October 2006 at 7:39 AM

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4 comments:

Jaume:

October 17, 2006 11:09 AM | Permalink for this comment

We Europeans were warning about this tragedy and we were called cowards, allies of tyranny, and many other nasty things. Even American liberals and moderates pointed their fingers at us for not supporting the invasion of Iraq by the US-British alliance. When millions of people were demonstrating in European cities against the impending war, Fox News was explaining the effects of chemical war to a terrorized TV audience. Finally, it was all a convenient lie. Now all that pain and murder is coming back and is destroying the weakest and most vulnerable. It was not just Rumsfeld: Many are to blame for this folly. If only a friend's advice was heard next time... But I'm afraid it won't.

Philocrites:

October 17, 2006 11:58 AM | Permalink for this comment

You're certainly right that Rumsfeld is not the only one to blame. I simply don't have words for how tragic and damnable the actions of the Bush Administration have been.

uuwonk:

October 17, 2006 06:39 PM | Permalink for this comment

Many Iraqis associate Christianity with the Baath party. The party's founder Michel Aflaq was a Christian and lived the last years of his life in Baghdad, greatly honored by Saddam. For many years Saddam's foreign minister, and the highest ranking non-Tikriti in the Iraqi government, was the Christian Tariq Aziz. It isn't surprising that a secular ideology like Baathism appealed to members of a religious minority.

Of course, blaming the Christians for Baathism makes about as much sense as the Nazi charge that the Jews were responsible for Communism. But it is something that people will believe.

So the Iraqi Christians are in an impossible position, associated with both Saddam and the Americans. The twentieth century has seen a number of anti-Christian pogroms in the Middle East, including the genocide of the Armenians. They are right to flee.

It is a sad end to a long history.

Fr. Damocles:

October 17, 2006 09:37 PM | Permalink for this comment

I would have a mote of respect for the Religious Right if they'd get off their high horses and start making a fuss about this real Christian persecution.



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