Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Armed Muslims Begin 'Ethnic Cleansing' in Baghdad
Kenneth R. Timmerman
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
WASHINGTON -- A group of armed
Muslims set fire to St. George's Assyrian Church in the Dora
neighborhood of Baghdad last week, completing decimating what remained
of a church already hit by a deadly fire-bombing in October 2004.
"The bombing of St. George's Church
should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that a process of ethnic
cleansing has begun," the Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick of Christian
Solidarity International told NewsMax.
"Unfortunately, the United States has
put very little pressure on the Iraqi government to establish, as
guaranteed by provisions in the Iraqi constitution, an autonomous
federal unit of self governance and security for these minorities," he
Wednesday's attack is only the
latest in a series of measures by Islamic militants aimed at forcing
Christians to leave Iraq.
"There are estimates that nearly 50
percent of the Christians of Iraq have been forced to flee into exile,"
Roderick said." It is lamentable that the international community and
the U.S. have not treated this terrible human dilemma with an urgent
Peter BetBasoo of the Assyrian
International News Agency (AINA) has been following closely the plight
of his fellow Assyrians in Iraq.
"Over the past 30 days, al-Qaida has
moved into the Dora neighbood and started to collect the jizya
[protection money]," he said. "They are telling the Assyrian families
who remain in the area they must pay this protection money, or leave."
The jizya, sometimes referred
to as a "head tax" or a "poll tax," was established by the Quran on
non-Muslims as a means of enforcing their submission to Muslim rule.
Those who refused to pay the jizya were to be killed.
The "Islamic State in Iraq," a Sunni
insurgent governing council dominated by al-Qaida, recently appointed a
local imam, Hatym al-Rizeq, as its "prince" for the al-Dora
neighborhood. He began demanding that Christian Assyrians pay the
protection tax last month.
According to AINA, al-Qaida elements
moved into the Dora area recently from al-Anbar povince, where they
were fleeing the U.S. security sweep.
The Dora neighborhood, some six miles
southwest from central Baghdad, "seems to be abandoned by both Iraqi
and Coalition" forces, AINA reported last month.
Over the past week, U.S. forces have
scoured the surrounding area in search of two missing U.S. soldiers who
are believed to have survived a kidnapping by insurgents linked to
"We talked to many people within the
American Embassy and the Iraqi Government, but it seems no body really
cares, because they have done nothing" to stop the anti-Christian
violence, one al-Dora resident told AINA.
Another Dora resident, who is
now a refugee in Syria, said he had spoken to a family who recently
fled the neighborhood after "terrorists knocked on their door" and
demanded that they pay the jizya to support the insurgents. If they
refused to pay the tax, they were told to convert to Islam, "or leave
the house within 24 hours or else be killed."
Al-Qaida is demanding that Christians
pay 250,000 dinars (around $200) for the right to remain in their own
homes, a sum equivalent to an average month's salary in Iraq, AINA said.
"Christians in Iraq are on their way
to extinction, cut off from the country's political process," said
Father Bashar Warda, newly-appointed rector of the St Peter Major
Seminary, which was recently moved from Baghdad to Ankawa in Iraqi
Kurdistan for security reasons.
When asked why nothing had been done
since the liberation to protect Iraqi Christians, Father Warda blamed
"the indifference of Iraqi leaders. They do not consider us as
belonging to this nation."
He said that other Iraqi groups take
advantage of Christians "because we have no outside support or our own
militia. They know that all we can do is make appeals and complain.
[Iraqi] politicians act convinced that our community is bound to
disappear in a few years."
William J. Murray, chairman of the
conservative Religious Freedom Coalition, told NewsMax that he has
called on President Bush to "step forward and protect the Christians
that have been placed in such grave danger by our actions in Iraq, even
if the sole solution is to grant immediate asylum to all of them."
The instability "caused in Iraq by
our failed attempt to install a democracy has decimated the Christian
community," Murray added. Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, international director
of the Barnabas Fund, issued an appeal on May 11 to U.N. Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon and to U.S. leaders, which is available at a Web
site dedicated to supporting the Assyrian community,
He recalled during a recent visit to
Baghdad speaking to a Christian minister who had appealed to the local
American military commander to beg for protection for Christians. The
answer he got was, "We are not here to protect you."
International estimates that 100,000 Assyrian Christians have fled Iraq
for Jordan, where the government refuses to grant them refugee status
and has closed church schools because they are "teaching Christianity."
Many more have fled for Syria.
In 1987, the Christian population of
Iraq was 1.4 million, Roderick said. "Today it is estimated to bet
between 600,000 and 800,000."
Dora is not the only area in Iraq
where Christians are being persecuted. Over the past two years, more
than 27 churches have been attacked or firebombed throughout Iraq,
priests kidnapped, and women murdered, Roderick said.
Last October, an Iraqi priest, Father
Boulos Iskander, was kidnapped and murdered near Mosul. His kidnappers
placed his severed head on top of his chest, and his severed arms and
legs around his head.
"The U.S. military has rushed in to
rebuild schools and mosques," Father Roderick said. "It remains to be
seen how quickly they will rush in to assist the beleaguered Christians
rebuild their losses, such as St. George's."
Iraq's Christians trace their
ancestry to the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians. Those who belong to
the Chaldean church are known as Assyrians or Chaldeans, while members
of the Syrian Orthodox church are known as Syriacs.
Even today, the Syriac/Chaldean liturgy is in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus.
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