Christians, Shias face uncertain future in face of Iraqi violence
Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need.
Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need.
By Adelaide Mena
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- In the midst of advances by Sunni insurgents, Iraq’s remaining Christian community  and the country’s majority- Shia population face threats to their future, and continued violence.

In response to the developing situation, the United States is deploying 275 troops to protect its embassy in Baghdad and its citizens in the country, and is also removing a portion of its diplomatic presence.

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a militant group that operates in Iraq and Syria with the aim of establishing a caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq, overtook the country’s second-largest city, Mosul, and the city of Tikrit, 95 miles north of Baghdad, on June 10.

The group had seized portions of Ramadi and Falluja earlier; Tal Afar was seized by ISIS June 16; and the group briefly held parts of Baquba, 37 miles outside of Baghdad, the following day.

ISIS currently controls much of the Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq, as well as cities along the Euphrates river in northwest Syria.

The organization, which had been called Al-Qaeda in Iraq, seeks to establish a Sunni state within the majority Shia region. In February 2014, Al-Qaeda cut ties with ISIS over disagreements regarding ideology.

According to National Public Radio, ISIS is “boasting of mass executions of Shiite members” of Iraqi security focus, and while the organization promises safety for civilians in areas they control, they must follow sharia and repent of previous cooperation with the Iraqi government, or face death or punitive amputation.

Shiite mosques have been the target of attacks and gunfire in Mosul and other ISIS-controlled regions; when the group took over Ar Raqqah in Syria last year, they imposed the jiyza tax on the city's Christian inhabitants.

Given the organization’s advance upon the capital, a “substantial number” of the personnel working at the American embassy will be moved to another location,  according to reports by the New York Times. The U.S. State department has not disclosed the number of staff members who will be relocated, but has said that the embassy is not scheduled to close.

The embassy, which boasts a staff of 5,500, is the largest United States embassy in the world, and was meant to act as a significant diplomatic presence in Iraq after American forces left Iraq in 2011.

Politicians and religious freedom experts are concerned that ISIS will pose a serious threat not only to Shias, but also to the country’s remaining Christians.

During the Iraq War, from 2003 to 2011, the country’s “Christian community has suffered intense religious persecution on top of the effects of the conflict and, as a result, it’s shrunk by well over 50 percent,” said religious freedom expert Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute in a June 10 article in National Review Online.

Many of the Christians who remained in the country relocated to Mosul, Shea explained, saying that the fall of Mosul to ISIS will have serious “implications for Iraq’s Christian community.”

In recent years, tens of thousands of Christians have moved from Mosul, Baghdad, and other Iraqi cities, to the relative security of Iraqi Kurdistan and its largest city, Arbil.

In a June 12 statement, Congressman Frank Wolf (R- Va.) worried that the violence in Iraq would affect innocents across the country, “not the least of which are vulnerable religious minorities which for centuries have inhabited these lands.”

Archbishop Emil Nona of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Mosul said June 11 to Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity, that he worried that "now there is probably no one left” in Mosul from the city’s Christian community.

“We have never seen anything like this, a large city such as Mosul attacked and in chaos.”

Despite these threats, Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad told Aid to the Church in Need June 16 that Iraqi leaders should work together – and not rely on international intervention – to resolve the crisis.

 “In responding to this crisis, the international community should think of the common good, not their own interests,” Archbishop Sleiman said. “They should think of peace.”

While ISIS “needs to be stopped,” he continued, “it needs the Iraqi leaders to work together to stop it. That is more important than getting the international community involved.”

“I hope Iraqi leaders will find a consensus about how to tackle this situation or there will be a tragic outcome. I don’t know what will happen next.”

“We should all pray for peace and solidarity and for a solution to the crisis,” he urged.

Tags: Syrian Civil War, Mosul, ISIS, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea

Liturgical Calendar

December 19, 2014

Advent Weekday

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 21:23-27


Daily Readings

First Reading:: Judg 13: 2-7, 24-25A
Gospel:: Lk 1: 5-25

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »


Homily of the Day

Mt 21:23-27