Christianity has been destroyed in Iraq, as since the turn of the millennium almost a million Christians have fled for their lives as Islamic terrorists have persecuted them in the most horrible of ways. As Iraq struggles to rebuild, those few remaining Christians in Iraq are still persevering in hope, saying the no matter how much evil their Muslim neighbors may have done to them, they will still forgive them. In their words, ‘they throw stones at us, and we throw bread at them’:
Jumana arrived in Baghdad when the self-proclaimed Islamic State began to sow terror throughout Iraq. During her time in the country, she has seen firsthand the unshakable faith of Iraqi Christians.
“There is a saying in Iraq: ‘They throw stones at us and we throw bread at them. ‘ It means that they always return good for evil, and the truth is that I have been able to see it with my own eyes. The Iraqi Christian is a Christian. A Christian does not seek revenge on anyone. This is how they are.”
She has also seen the example of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who had to flee persecution from the jihadists in Mosul. Now, they have returned to Baghdad to open a medical clinic that helps Muslims and Christians in a country where terrorism is an almost daily occurance.
“Iraq is the country most affected by terrorism. In 2016 alone, 17,000 people died of terrorist attacks. In a city like Baghdad, every day there is an attack.”
One of the most terrible was in the shi’ite district of Karrada, where these sisters give refuge to families in their school. Here last year, a car bomb killed 300 people in this mall. At the end of May of this year, another attack claimed by ISIS killed almost 20 people in an ice cream parlor. This group of Christians prayed a few days ago at the scene of the attack. They did it for peace and for their country, which has been immersed in an intermittent war since the late 1970s.
Jihadism, war and economic precariousness have led to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Christians from this land, evangelized by Thomas the apostle in the first century. It is estimated that in 2003, there were about one million Christians in Iraq. Today there are no more than 200,000.
“A lady from the parish told me she had a total of 600 in her family. Now there are three. But I am still optimistic, because I have lived through the war in Lebanon, where many people also left, and then many have returned. Now that there is more peace, and people – if they do not return – continue to help rebuild the country from their new country.” (source)
Now it is important to emphasize that being merciful to others does not mean allowing others to take advantage to the point of destruction. This is a sin because it is a form of suicide. However, to be a Christian means to bear hardships more so than one would normally bear on his own power and doing so with the grace of God, returning good for evil and loving even those most difficult to love.