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Christian Nomads

A soldier guards Christmas Mass-goers in Iraq


John Burger - published on 06/18/14

Nina Shea sees need for west to help Chaldeans resettle near their ancient homeland.

Christians in Iraq, it appears, are becoming nomads.

Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, reports that Chaldeans from Mosul have suddenly lost the place they have called home from time immemorial.

“Over two days last week, every one of Mosul’s thousands of Christians fled the Sunni Jihadi invasion and they are not going back,” she writes at National Reviews The Corner blog today. “All their ancient and beautiful churches and monasteries there will remain closed, and a handful have already been desecrated. In effect, a targeted religious cleansing of Christians has taken place in Iraq’s second largest city and one known through much of the past 2,000 years as Nineveh, Iraq’s Christian center.”

And if they want to live there, they’ll have to play by the new rules: Sharia law, that is.

“ISIS jihadists, reportedly with support from a sizeable segment of Mosul’s overwhelmingly Sunni population, have declared the establishment of a caliphate under medieval sharia rules and the black flag of Islamist extremism,” Shea writes.

That would be unthinkable, she opines: “The new order, as established in an eleven-point charter, would curb Christian rights, burden them financially by arbitrary “protection” taxes, endanger their women and girls by the risk of abduction and forcible conversion, and put them at an insurmountable disadvantage by discounting their testimony in the sharia courts that are at the heart of their governing system. If the extremist takeover of Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood eight years ago is any example, their homes and properties would have been quickly seized by others and they would have no legal recourse. Instead, for now, they have chosen the uncertainty and hand-to-mouth existence of the displaced.”

Is there a solution? If nothing else, they need a place to live.

They’ve settled temporarily in the nearby Nineveh Plain and in Kurdistan, which are being protected by Kurdish forces known as peshmerga. These may well turn out to be permanent settlements for the Christians–as much as the situation allows for any sort of permanency.

“I met yesterday with Pascale Warda, a Chaldean Catholic who was the Immigration and Refugee Minister for Iraq’s interim government and now runs Hammurabi Human Rights group in Baghdad,” Shea writes. “Warda raised the urgent need for housing for the Christians of Mosul to enable them to remain in the Christian villages of Nineveh and Kurdistan.”

An Iraqi expat, Joseph Kassab, founder of the Michigan-based Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute, added that “American reconstruction and resettlement aid will be essential to this effort, in addition to immediate, generous humanitarian aid.”

But Shea, who has followed religious persecution issues for decades, seemed pessimistic. “The wave of persecution that has been directed at Iraq’s Christians after 2003 has never received much attention by either President Bush or President Obama’s administrations,” in spite of a grim record: 70 deliberate church bombings and assaults, assassinations, kidnappings, attacks against clergy. “In recent years, particularly since 2004, a million of Iraq’s Christians have been driven out of the country by such atrocities,” Shea writes. “This can be rightly called targeted religious cleansing, and it is a crime against humanity.”

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