Methodists highlight the plight of indigenous Iraqi Christians

By staff writers
December 17, 2006

Christianity in Iraq is staring oblivion in the face, declares a commentary in the Methodist Recorder newspaper in the UK - which focuses on the concerns of Iraqis surveying the current devastating situation in their country from the outside.

Terrifying sectarian warfare, appalling violence between the military and insurgents, together with the nation's continuing drift into political and economic chaos are major factors affecting the beleaguered minority.

Thousands of exiled Iraqi Christians are now calling for material support for the Christian community still in Iraq, representing a significant ancient religious and cultural presence.

But their plight, says the Methodist weekly, seems to warrant little mention as the great powers contemplate a new peace initiative for the war-torn nation - and focus their concerns on the conflict between Sunnis and Shias, and the specific situation of the Kurds.

"There must be more than prayer. The first thing we need is practical support, especially for those Christians in Baghdad," said a young woman exile in Birmingham, Rania Yousif.

Ms Yousif is an Aramaic-speaking Iraqi Chaldean Christian from Baghdad who attends the Methodist Church in the suburb of Selly Oak. Her brother and sister are exiled in Syria.

As Britain and America have begun to admit the mistakes made by the coalition forces in Iraq, and to contemplate alternative strategies, she called on British Christians to lobby the UK Government and the governments of other European countries on behalf of displaced Iraqis.

In particular, she and her compatriots are making appeals to the authorities to safeguard the status of Iraqi Christians who are refugees and asylum-seekers for at least five years.

It has been forgotten that the Christian Church has existed in Iraq since the first century, said Rania Yousif. Before the war there were more than a million Christians in the country, although mistreatment and threats are likely to have at least halved that number.

Recently around 35,000 Christians have fled to Syria and Jordan. According to some estimates hundreds of indigenous Christians are now fleeing every week.

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