Christianity in Iraq By Dr. Suha Rassam ICIN
The Matrix • Mesopotamia under Persians /Zoroastrian • The Rest of ME under the Romans/Pagans. • The two empires in conflict • The majority of the population were Pagans • A large Jewish community in Iraq/exiles
Evangelisation • Tradition: Thadaeus &Thomas/Aggai&Mari • Travel:Trade & pilgrimage • Jews from Mesopotamia (Acts 2:5-10) • Gradual infiltration amongst Jews, Pagans and Zoroastrians
The Churches of Iraq • The Church of the East/Nestorian/Persian • The Syrian Orthodox Church/Miaphysite • The Chaldean Church 1553/ largest • The Syrian Catholic Church 1662 • Protestant,Armenian.Anglican.Greek
The second Century • Church Building • Intellectual Converts: Tatian, Bardaisan • King Abgar VIII converts to Christianity • Synod in Edessa AD 197:Date of Easter • The epitaph of Abercuis • Representatives in the Council of Nicea
The Third century • Ardashir in 224 had to deal with the Christians & included the church Kokhe within his new capital • The Zoroastrian religion was adopted as the official religion of the State in AD286 and apostasy was punishable by death
The Fourth Century • The Forty Years Persecution/ The Great Persecution/ Shapur II/ AD 339-379 • Yazdgird I 399/peace with the Romans Acknowledged the Christians as independent community
The fifth century • 410 AD Attended by representative from the Western Church • 424 AD The C.E becomes self-ruling. • Note: before the Councils of Ephesus 431& Chalcedon AD 451
Characteristics • Dyophysite theology /School of Edessa • The Syriac language as its hallmark • Incorporated Greek Philosophy • Centres of learning/Scholars & writers • Asceticism, Mysticism and Monastic • Strongly Missionary
Arab Abbasid Rule750-1258 • Christians & Jews: People of the book • Had to pay special tax-Jyziah • Had to observe Dhimmi rules: First Category-always binding Second: Only applied if stipulated
Dhimmi Rules I • Should not denigrate Islam,the prophet of Islam or misquote the Qur’an • Must not undermine a Muslim’s faith • Must not help the enemies of Islam • Must not approach a Muslim woman unless he converts to Islam • Apostacy from Islam punishable by death.
Dhimmi Rules II • Non-Muslims wear distinctive clothing • Should not erect buildings higher than those of Muslims • Must not allow sound of bells or talk about Jesus to reach a Muslim ear. • Must not display crosses, drink wine or eat pork in front of a Muslim • Should not ride a horse but a mule or a donkey.
The Contributions of the Christians to the Abbasid Civilization 750-1258 • Pioneered as physicians and had near monopoly in medicine • Educators & officials & translators • Prominent philosophers • Patriarch conducted dialogues with Muslim • The Translation Process
Decline Under Muslim Rule • Rigidity of application of Dhimmi rules/9C • Increase in number of educated Muslims • Increasing strength of the Arabic language • Decline in the need of Syriac language • The church became impoverished • Weakness of the state
From Abbasid to modern times • Mongol rule 1258-1405 • Turkoman rule 1405-1508 • Savavid rule Struggle for survival.Seat of the Patriarchate moved from place to place as to where it is safest • Ottoman rule 1534-1914
Modern Iraq • British rule & Mandate 1918-32 • Independent Monarchy 1932-1956 Democracy/schools/modernisation • Republic 1958-2003 Conflicts/abolition of private education/ Iraq-Iran war/sanctions/emigration
Under Occupation9 April 2003 • Lack of law and order • Destruction of the infrastructure • Persecution/Sunni-Shite • Persecution/Shi’as & Sunnis of Christian • Survival of the Christian community under threat
Attacks on Christians • Initially: alcohol dealers, barbers, musicians. • Kidnapping: Professionals & rich…Ransom • Women forced to wear al-Hijab • Accusations: Crusaders & American collaborators. • Dhimmis & infidels who should convert to Islam, pay the Jyzia, convert, be killed. • Calls from Minarets: do not buy their property…they will leave & it is Halal for your.
Attacks on Churches • First concerted attack 1.8.04 • Last concerted attack 6.1.08 • Between 26.6.2004-9.1.2008 a total of 45 churches & related Christian places of worship have been attacked. • Some attacks were concerted with major damage and loss of life, others isolated with little damage & no loss of life
Attacks on religious personnel • August 04 Patriarch Deli threatened (Baghdad) • January 2005 Bishop Mousa kidnapped (Mosul) • 17.7.06 Ra’ad Washan K. (Baghdad) • 16.8.06 Douglas Al-Bazi & Sa’ad Sirop K.(Bag) • 16.8.06 Basil Yaldo K. Baghdad • Oct. 06 Paul Iskander K, murdered & body mutilated (Mosul). • 15.12 06 Sami al-Rayyis K.& tortured (Baghdad) • 3.6.07 Raghid Ganni & three deacons assassinated as they were leaving church after service (Mosul).
Ethnic Cleansing • During the summer of 2007, al-Dora district of Baghdad was attacked by Sunni extremists evicting Shi’a Muslims & Christians from their homes. • Christians were asked to convert to Islam, leave their homes, or killed.
Refugees • Eight million Iraqis need humanitarian assistance to ensure their day to day survival (The Times, 18 April 2007). • In Syria, 44% of Iraqi Asylum seekers were recorded as Christian since UNHCR began registrations in December 2003 ( Guardian weekly October 20-26 2006)
Iraqi Church Leaders • All Church leaders spoke on various occasions asking to be protected and treated as equal citizens • The Patriarch of the Chaldeans gave a cry for help on 6 May 07. He was in tears after a bomb exploded in a Christian village near a school killing 17 children and injuring over 170 individuals: ‘I hold responsible all those who can reach a solution to establish peace and stability in our homeland…’
Bishop Sako to Asia news • ‘We can no longer be silent. We have to remind the world of the importance of the Christian presence in Iraq, for the good of Iraq. Christians are suffering from forced evacuation, rape, kidnap, blackmail and killing. Forcing Christians to leave their homes destroy the cultural, civil and religious mosaic of which Iraq is considered to be the very cradle’.
Bishop Audo What a great loss it would be If Christianity in Iraq is obliterated, not only to Iraq but to the whole Middle east and to the whole Muslim world
Summary • Within the general context of violence & lawlessness, the Christians suffer more than other Iraqis as they are specifically targeted by Islamists of both sides. • They have no militia to protect them, have no safe haven to go to & no country to support them
Statement 2005 Christians are threatened, intimidated & their livelihood taken from them, their homes & possessions seized & destroyed. The longer we refuse to take action, hundreds of Christians are forced to flee their homes in fear of their lives
Will this community survive? How can we help • Make the plight of the Christians known • Write to MP • Must accept some as refugees • Financial help for refugees/charities/ICIN • Dialogue/reaching compassionate Muslim voices • Western countries should support the Eastern Christians by creating a centre for Eastern Christianity • Solving political conflict in the Middle East
ICIN – Iraqi Christians In Need • ICIN is a UK registered Charity which was established to help the Iraqi Christians who, as a result of events during the past few years, have been displaced, destitute, persecuted and are suffering financial hardship. • Iraq is no longer front page news but the problems of the Iraqi Christians are still there. • Thank you for your support. • www.icin.org.uk