Christians have lived in Iraq for 2,000 years but this Christmas they’re not celebrating. Under increasing attack from Islamic fundamentalists are they about to be driven from their ancestral homeland?
Meet Canon Andrew White, an Anglican priest who serves the largest congregation of Christians in Baghdad. His service this Christmas could be the last Christmas service to be held in the country which has some of the oldest Christian communities in the world. “I dont want to leave the country. But now this has happened, I fear for my daughters” says the mother of Uday a four-year-old boy killed by Islamic extremists, unfortunately it was not an isolated attack. In the last few months over 1,000 families have fled Baghdad after Islamic extremists burst into a church in October, murdering two priests and holding the entire congregation hostage. Now few Christians in Iraq will even attend religious ceremonies for fear of violence. “Even though it’s Christmas, and we love this festival, what can we do? We are sad at the moment, so we won’t celebrate”. At the church where the violence occurred a few still come to worship, the walls behind them still stained with bloody hand prints. “They say to us, the Americans are your people, they’re Christians. They say you brought them here. And they kill us for it”. The American invasion has radicalised many Iraqis and Christians have become identified with the West and are an easy target.
Saddam Hussein was clearly a brutal Iraqi dictator. He ruled with an iron fist and kept order with tremendous force and punishment. However, since his removal from power, the persecution of Iraqi Christians has skyrocketed. Since that time, no Iraqi citizen has been safe. After al-Qaeda took root in Iraq, it eventually became what is known as ISIS. The wanton beheadings, torture and other forms of persecution is beyond unspeakable. As the years have passed, there is fewer and fewer options for Iraqi Christians. Bordered by Syria to the north, Iran to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, these Christians are being squeezed into having no escape routes. The persecution of Christians in Iraq is particularly challenging for Rescue Christians but that just means those Christians are in greater need of help. Rescue Christians has had some noteworthy successes in Iraq with the help of great donors. Though we help to rescue as many as we can, there are always more in desperate, desperate need.