Iraqi Christians are the indigenous people of Mesopotamia. Their history goes back to ancient Babylon and Ur of the Chaldeans. They are the original builders of the Cradle of Civilization. They managed to survive in their indigenous land, Iraq, century after century, generation after generation, war after war, for thousands of years.
Today, Iraqi Christians, the majority of whom are Chaldeans, are the most peaceful segment of Iraqi society. They have a great love for their country and are the most loyal, honest, sincere citizens of Iraq. They do not have any political agenda, but they live and die, care and labor for their country. They never carried weapons nor did they ever assemble any type of militia for the past 2,000 years.
The Christians of Iraq, though a small percentage, 1.2 million out of a total population of 25 million, represent the civilized, liberal, democratized and cultured core of Iraqi society. They accept others, tolerate differences, respect human rights, and separate the affairs of religion and state. They are the most educated and the most successful business people in all Iraq.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, along with the rise of terrorism within Iraq, more than 60 Christian churches and monasteries have been bombed and destroyed. Thousands of Christians have been killed, kidnapped and injured. This wave of displacement reached a peak during the years 2006--2008, in which the number of displaced Christians in Mosul, in the north, was more than 10,000 people.
According to the reports of United Nations High Commission for Refugees and other refugee organizations, over 600,000 Iraqi Christians, 50 percent of the original Christian population in Iraq before 2003, have fled Iraq. Today, more than half of these refugees are living in dire conditions in the surrounding countries of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. They exist in destitution and poverty. Often times, many of the Christian women are forced into prostitution in order to provide daily bread for the rest of their family members. These refugees see no hope in returning to Iraq because they see the other remaining Iraqi Christians living under the mercy of the terrorist attacks in the "new and democratic" Iraq.
The most recent attack on the Christian population, which took place at Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Baghdad on Oct. 31, during Sunday evening mass, proved yet again that Iraqi Christians are vulnerable targets because of their Christian faith and that the Iraqi government can practically do nothing to protect them. At least 58 people were killed, including two priests and over 75 people were injured. Most of these victims were members of the same family; parents and children, as it is tradition for the entire family to attend the Sunday mass together. According to witnesses, the attackers were systematically murdering the worshippers, and the Iraqi security forces stood outside listening, while relatives of the victims gathered outside begging them to intervene.
These kinds of attacks show that Iraqi Christians will continue to be an easy target for terrorists. If the United States and the international community do not act to enforce a political solution to protect the Christians of Iraq, more and more Christians will be targeted, attacked and killed under the guise that they are infidels or pro-Westerners. Soon, we will be seeing that Iraqi Christians who have lived and survived thousands of years in their native land will disappear from Iraq. If Christians disappear, Iraq will lose its social buffer component, its balance and stabilizing segment. Iraq will lose its builders and its best assets.
Since the American invasion in 2003, the Christians of Iraq have faced a real ethnic cleansing campaign. Ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity under the statutes of the International Criminal Court. The U.S. has both a legal and moral obligation to protect the Iraqi Christians along with all the other vulnerable religious and ethnic minorities of Iraq who can never defend themselves. The U.S. must put pressure on the Arab and Kurdish majorities to secure a regional administrative region for the Christians of Iraq and the other minorities, to offer them equal constitutional rights, to preserve their identity, religion and culture, and even to have a small share of Iraq's oil revenues, as the Iraqi Arabs and Kurds do.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, along with the rise of terrorism within Iraq, more than 60 Christian Churches and monasteries have been bombed and destroyed.
Barka is president of Calbiotech, a biotech products company based in Spring Valley. He also is vice president of the San Diego-based Chaldean American Foundation.