Iraq, once known as the “cradle of civilization” may soon come to be known as the “graveyard of civilization.” The first laws, writing, astronomy and math were all gifts that Mesopotamia gave to advance civilization. The most famous Mesopotamian from Ur of the Chaldeans, was Abraham, the patriarch of the three great religions; Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Today the land is being torn apart by religion and foreign intervention. After the creation of Israel, most of the once large and thriving ancient Jewish community in Iraq fled. My father came from Iraq to America in 1952 because he realized that Iraq was not a nation for a Christian man to raise a family. He was an indigenous Chaldean who spoke Aramaic, the language of Christ, and wanted to be free to practice his Catholic faith.
The number of Christians who have emigrated from Iraq is over 1 million and increasing since the most recent societal breakdown. Soon the indigenous Christians could disappear from Iraq like the Jews. What has gone so wrong to create this cataclysmic turn of events?
The answer is simple. You either have a strong man controlling the country and keeping a lid on ethnic divisions or you must give these groups autonomy to live as they see fit. Prior to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire there were relatively few uprisings as they ruled their Caliphate ruthlessly but at the same time were divided into homogenous ethnic/religious provinces and few of it’s vassal states dared to challenge it.
This changed during the reign of the “Young Turks” in the early 1900’s. The “sick man of Europe” saw many of its far flung provinces rebel under more “liberal” constitutional rule encouraged by European colonial powers eager to carve up the Ottoman Empire. So for centuries Muslims lived under a caliphate which was an essential part of their civilization and when that rule ended with the secular “Young Turks”, the equilibrium between Christians and Muslims was impossible to reach and religious and ethnic strife commenced.
It was during this period that the Armenian/Assyrian genocide began which saw well over 1 million Christians slaughtered by the Turks and their Kurdish allies as Armenians sought independence with the backing of Russia. Few in the west lifted a finger to help and Hitler even rationalized his Holocaust by noting, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Frustratingly, history keeps repeating itself.
What we are witnessing today throughout the Middle-East against Christians by the Jihadis is nothing less than genocide; beheadings, imprisonment, crucifixions, kidnappings, rapes, Church burnings and intimidation in order to chase out the oldest Christian communities in the world from their ancestral homelands.
A scarlet letter has been spray painted on the homes of followers of the “Nazarene” in Mosul to let them know that they are not welcome. This kind of Barbarism continues while the world remains silent. A Pew Research study points out that Christians in the Middle East are the most persecuted group in the world yet President Obama wants to give weapons to those allied with Al Qaeda who are inflicting great carnage against the Christian population. Oddly, Russia has been the only country to come to the aid of terrorized Christians in their support of Syria’s secular regime which protects the Christian minority. The Saudi’s who fund ISIS could end this oppression tomorrow if there was a will to put pressure on them in Washington. Sadly, our Middle-East foreign policy is dictated by a Machiavellian divide and conquer approach. Saudi and Israeli special interests are catered to but the Christian community is caught in the crossfire with no one to speak on their behalf.
Enter Rand Paul: The only principled politician who has called for an end to foreign aid to countries that persecute Christians. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSZiYp3gJww Rand Paul has also called on ending foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority unless Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist. His sensible foreign policy will put America’s interest first, not that of the neocon establishment and foreign interest lobbyists. He has rightly put the blame for the disaster in Iraq squarely on Bush/Cheney who foolishly rushed into war in Iraq without considering the blowback to the indigenous Christians or the incredible cost in American lives and treasure.
With Iraq, Bush proved to be even more ignorant than Winston Churchill who as leader of the British Empire grouped antagonistic sects in Iraq and created ill-conceived borders that could only be held together by the threat of British intervention. The British divide and conquer strategy ended very tragically for their foreign imposed King Faisal in 1958. What followed after years of instability was the more homegrown but ruthless rule of the secular Baath Party which held Iraq together and allowed some religious freedom. Fast forward to Bush’s western style “democracy” in Iraq which is proving to be a repeat of history as the American made government crumbles from those same religious and ethnic realities which will predictably be followed by another period of chaos.
The hope this time is that the people will get it right and be able to live in autonomous ethnic regions with out foreign interference. The Christian community would have self rule in their historic Nineveh Plains where they will be able to defend themselves and everyone can practice their religion freely as tolerance is a virtue of Christianity. The Christian Nineveh Plains is sitting on a lake of oil and could become a “Switzerland” that serves as a refuge for Christians and drive economic development and prosperity. Appealing to the International Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People, this area could be safeguarded by the world community if need be. The final outcome could be the Kurds being autonomous in the north, the Sunnis in the west and Shia in the south with the oil rich Kurds and Shia sharing 20% of their revenue with the poorer Sunni region in order to maintain peace and stability.
The failed idea of interventionism and imposing western systems and values alien to Muslims beliefs, has left Islamic lands in turmoil. The people of Iraq are not enemies of each other, the enemies are those who would deny another human being the right to live in peace and to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and to pursue their development in accordance with their aspirations.
Civilized Christians, Jews and Muslims of good faith must heroically and openly reject those barbaric foreign forces of death and oppression fomenting discord as we valiantly do unto others as we would have done unto us. There is a danger to ourselves when we stand up for what is right, but we place our children in greater danger if we don’t.
“Safeguarding the rights of others is the most noble and beautiful end of a human being. One’s own religion is after all a matter between oneself and one’s Maker and no one else’s.” ― Khalil Gibran