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Persecution of Christians in Iraq in the light of History

Updated on July 25, 2014

They are Christian Iraqis who love their country. As Christians, they are not about to give up hope and leave, say the Christian leadership. They have been confident that the political unrest sweeping the rest of the Middle East will not affect Iraq, because those countries are dictatorships while Iraq is a constitutional government.

Even when they were under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, in an overwhelmingly Muslim Iraq, some Christians rose to the top. Most noteworthy was Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. The Baathist regime at that time kept a lid on anti-Christian violence.

However, many Iraqi Christians in recent years have been fleeing. In July 2010, Iraqi Christian leaders visited the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. to beg for help. Putting aside denominational differences, they'd formed a council of churches to unite against persecution and sent representatives to Capital Hill to ask for protection. By then, only 400,000 remained of the 1.4 millions Christians there before the war. Attacks on Christians there are not even prosecuted.

Senol Demir's photostream
Senol Demir's photostream | Source

The hope is that they will return once better safety is provided. For now, the urgent concern is protection for those Christians still in Iraq. The constitution's guaranteed rights for all Iraqis must be upheld by a strengthened Iraqi government.

Church leaders do point out that it is not just the Christians who are being targeted and suffering. Two days after terrorists attacked a church in Baghdad, about 90 people were killed in a rash of bomb explosions in mainly Shia neighbourhoods.


Three months after this visit to Washington, D.C. is when Al-Qaida affiliated terrorists attacked the church in Baghdad. They massacred over 50 worshippers at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church. This was the worst attack since the war began, triggering also a series of other attacks on Christians.

  • Nov 10 - six killed in thirteen bombings on Baghdad homes
  • Nov 16 - two shot dead by gunmen in N. Iraq
  • Nov 17 - father and 6-year-old daughter killed by a bomb in Mosul
  • Nov 22 - two brothers shot dead and elderly woman strangled
  • Dec 5 - elderly couple shot dead in Baghdad
  • Dec 31 - bomb left on doorstep of elderly couple's home detonates
  • Jan 15 - doctor shot point blank in head in Mosul hospital

All these victims were Christians attacked by non-Christians.

A congressional hearing was held on January 20, 2011 in Washington to look for a way to protect Iraqi Christians. See this article to see what USCIRF has recommended. Inaction will result in the annihilation of Iraq's Christians.

A bit of history

Iraqi church and political leaders have urged the Christian communities to stay in the country where they have been based for more than 2,000 years. Christians there date back to the apostle Thomas. Iraq's Assyrian communities are some of the oldest in the world, and the heritage of Assyrian Christians date back to the adoption of Christianity in the first century AD.


Congressional hearing

Christians live not only in Baghdad, but are also in the northern cities of Kirkuk, Irbil and Mosul. Mosul was once along a major Mesopotamian trading route known as Nineveh in the Bible. Most Iraqi Christians are Chaldeans, who are Eastern-rite Catholics with autonomy from Rome but who recognise the Pope's authority. Being an ancient people, some Chaldeans still speak Aramaic, likely the language of Jesus in the four gospels of the Bible.

However, the Islamic method of convert or be killed began for this Christian community in the seventh century. In more recent history, 1933, the massacre of 3000 Christians in Simmele, Northern Iraq, was was the first atrocity committed by a new Iraqi state after gaining independence from Britain the year before.

As recent as 2008, hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians fled the country from Nineveh under murderous threats from Islamic militants that had escalated.

Today, with Catholic representatives in the city saying the community is now frightened and confused, a return of Christian persecution in this region may be another part of its long history come back to haunt once again.

Muslims Terrorizing Christian Girls in Iraq

© 2011 Deidre Shelden


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    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Amen, Betty! So true; the evil that drives persecution is very blinding to those who perpetrate it.

    • Betty Johansen profile image

      Betty Johansen 6 years ago

      Tragedy upon tragedy. May God have mercy on both sides - the Christians and their persecutors who know not what they do.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks for joining us May PL, and the Up vote. The more, the better!

    • May PL profile image

      May PL 6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      And I join you both in prayers. Our hearts in Australia go out for all in the region. Thanks for keeping us in the loop. Sad story but indeed an important hub and voice. Voted up.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Kashmir, it is truly sad, indeed. I join you in your prayers.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Ms Dee, It is such a shame to see all that turmoil within the Middle East, i pray that God will bring them peace soon !

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Good to know you came to read it, lifegate!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Ms Dee,

      Thanks for the update. It is indeed heartbreaking.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      My heart is with you on this, Pamela, and great we'll be praying together for them :). Appreciate your read and making this known hopefully to others, too, and encourage more prayers for them.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      That is just heartbreaking for those Christians and it makes you wonder will there ever be peace for them. I will pray for them and hope that God will show them away to be free in worship as they choose without fear of reprisal. Thank you for writing about the situation as I was unaware of the shootings at the church. God bless.

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      Good morning BP! I don't see how either, in the present evil world. It will take something beyond what mankind can do.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 6 years ago

      Will there ever be peace in the Middle East? I don't see how.