Christians flee genocide as fear sweeps Iraq
By Jack Fairweather at St Matthew's Monastery near Mosul
One of the most ancient monasteries in the world, St Matthew's, stands on a barren mountainside in northern Iraq, its last inhabitant a crusty old Syrian Orthodox priest. Nestled between sandstone crags with views of the hills around ancient Nineveh, now called Mosul, it looks like the final redoubt of the Christian world.
Seven thousand monks used to worship here; now there is just one, Father Ada Qadr al-Kars.
This thinning of the ranks has taken centuries, he said, but in the valleys Iraq's Christian community, targeted with especial ferocity by Islamic extremists for the past year, is disappearing rapidly.
Churches have been bombed, priests kidnapped and Christian neighbourhoods subjected to random shootings, the terrorists' revenge for the community's shared religion with the "Christian" invaders.
According to Church leaders, some 300,000 Christians - roughly a quarter of the population - have fled their homes since the US-led invasion.
It is too early to speak of a humanitarian crisis, with many from the community, one of Iraq's more affluent, able to leave the country in civilised fashion or find shelter in the Kurdish-controlled north. But in the minds of Church leaders there is little doubt as to the nature of the exodus.
"It's genocide. You can see it with your own eyes," said Bishop Putres Harbori, head of the Christian community in Dohuk, near the Turkish border, where 350 families have found sanctuary.
Many fear that Iraq's ancient Christian community is leaving for ever, some nostalgic for better times under Saddam Hussein. Life was good when the Ba'athists were in charge, said Paula Sliwa, 71, one of 60,000 Christians to flee Mosul in recent months.
He belongs to the Assyrian Church, one of several sects in the city tracing their history to Job preaching to the ungodly. He, his wife and five children used to live with 100 other families near the Shaleeka Cunta church on the western bank of the Euphrates.
Iraq's small Christian community has a history of collaboration with the powers-that-be in Baghdad, first with the British in the 1920s, then with Saddam's regime, which boasted the Christian Tariq Aziz as one of its most powerful leaders. Christians often worked in the luxury business, selling alcohol and running beauty parlours.
"I have a large house and two cars," said Mr Sliwa, formerly a well paid government official. "We never had any trouble." But the Christian community in Mosul has been shaken by a wave of vicious attacks, including five car bombs detonated outside churches, killing more than 20, in one month.
Anti-Christian graffiti was daubed on church walls and inflammatory CDs sold in the market. Regular gun attacks began in Christian areas of the city, with several priests kidnapped and told that, as Christians, they were on the side of the American invaders.
"We were used to living in hell," said Mr Sliwa. Then a neighbour told him that his two sons had been killed by the latest attack. "My son's car was 300 metres away. They were slumped in their seats, covered in blood," he said. "The terrorists had shot at any car in the neighbourhood, knowing they would kill Christians."
Mr Sliwa and the rest of his family fled to Angkawr, one of a number of Christian communities in the Kurdish-protected north. That evening his house in Mosul was broken into and ransacked.
Stories like his are common in Angkawr, where 150 families shelter from the oppression and fear that forced them to flee homes in Mosul, Baghdad and Basra.
They say a new breed of al-Qa'eda-inspired terrorists, rather than the former Ba'athists, are behind the attacks. Iraqi police are powerless to protect the community, say families, and US forces rarely intervene, not wanting to be seen to be siding with Christians and thereby exposing the troops to more violence.
For their part, Christian leaders in Iraq oscillate between calling the attacks "ethnic cleansing" and stressing that Christians are suffering along with others in Iraq.
Angkawr, a town of 35,000 people, is defended by guards and concrete barriers. Residents, along with the refugees, want to leave the country as fast as possible, with Syria, Jordan, Europe and America the popular destinations.
Saed Alexis, a local business leader, said: "There is not a person who wouldn't leave Iraq if they could. In five years there will be no one left."
You would have to be a nut -- to be a Christian over there.
There are to many heathens that would want to kill you for nothing more than your religion being different.
Either that or believe the TRUTH is more important than self.
Just ten years ago, the Bolshevik Revolution was probably considered a much bigger influence on the world than the rise of the House of Saud. Today, the reverse is true. Those assholes are exporting their Wahabi crazies all over the world and pushing their brand of Islam with unlimited funding. Shit like this (and 9/11) is the result.
Funny how the globalist leftists are shedding the crocodile tears over the tribulations of Christians now that it can be used to undermine the USA.
Most didn't say a word about it when it was Communists doing the persecution.
ETA, The Telegraph isn't a left-wing publication. Couldn't find evidence of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or any of the other two-faced ComSymp 'Human Rights' Advocacy trash picking this up. Leaving my post up in case they do.
Amnesty International is an organization I truly hate.
And here we see where Christian fundamentalists and Muslim fundamentalists are different.
As Christians we are required to persue peace with all men, repaying reviling with kindness and curses with blessings. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who despitefully use us, comitting ourselves into the hand of Him who judges righteously.
We are allowed to defend ourselves, but wanton killing of those who do not follow our faith is a complete invalidation of our faith.
And if the choice comes down to following Christ even to the point of death or forsaking Him, the true Christian will gladly lay down his life, because life without Christ is death. God is our protection and He is our exceeding great reward.
Vengance belongs to Him, and not to us.
The very earliest Christians did this when persecuted by Rome and the religious leaders in Israel. They endured and their testimony of faith was so staggering that even secular historians of the time noted it.
A little known fact is that more people are killed for the sake of the Gospel today than at any point in history. Yet Christian martyrs are not those who walk into a building and blow up innocent people. Christian martyrs are people who are killed by thugs or governments for the sole crime of refusing to give up Christ. They are not murderers, or adulterers, or lawless people. They are ordinary people who have had an encounter with an extraordinary God, and who choose Him above everyone or everything else.
The world is not worthy of them.
An excellent point.