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Iraq's Catholics are being crucified.

Washington, D.C. -- On June 30, 2006, an Assyrian Christian testified before the House Committee on International Relations about the situation in modern Iraq.

(Editor's note: The Catholic equivalent of the Holy Catholic Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East, a Nestorian Church, is the Chaldean Church. However, in 1994 the Assyrian Church signed a common Christological declaration with the Vatican. This, in turn, has been followed with annual meetings as well as a Joint Synodal Decree on unity with the Chaldean Church. This includes regulations for intercommunion).

Rosie Malek-Yonan is an Assyrian Catholic and author of The Crimson Field, a novel about the genocide of Christians in Iraq from 1914-1918, during which an estimated 750,000 Christians were murdered by ethnic (Muslim) Kurds. History is repeating itself, she told the Committee.

"My churches are being bombed," she said. "My elders are being killed. My young brothers are being assaulted and kidnapped. My fellow students are being harassed and beaten. My children and neighbours are being beheaded. If my sister refuses to wear a Muslim hijab, she is raped or tortured or having acid thrown in her face. And, yes, the majority of these incidents have gone unreported in the Western press. These atrocities are occurring right under the watchful eyes of my American government since the 'liberation' of Iraq....

"We Assyrians are a nation without boundaries ... Assyrians like myself, living in the diaspora in our adopted countries, are doing what we can to bring awareness to the plight of our people ...

"Just this week, 7,000 Assyrians left Baghdad for Northern Iraq. The women and children have taken refuge in other Assyrian homes, while the men sleep in the cemeteries at night. I don't mean figuratively. I mean literally. They sleep in the cemeteries because they have no other shelter.

"A few months ago, I met with Mar Gewargis Sliwa, the Archbishop of Iraq from the Assyrian Catholic Church of the East. His account of the lives of Assyrian children in Iraq is appalling and heartbreaking. He said to me. 'We can't help our children anymore. They play in fields of blood. We are a poor nation. We need help. Help us.'

"Just days ago I spoke with His Holiness Mar Dinka IV, the Patriarch of the Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, who told me that the priests in Iraq can no longer wear their clerical robes in public. They have to dress as civilians otherwise they are targeted and attacked by Islamists.

"Today's Iraq was once part of Assyria. Assyria was the first nation to accept Christianity ...

"Though Assyrians are the indigenous people of Iraq, they are now either being victimized and killed, or being driven out of their homeland. Their practice of the Christian religion is not being tolerated or allowed by the terrorists and Islamist Kurds. Acts of violence and aggression towards the Assyrian Christians of Iraq are frequent occurrences. For example, Assyrian churches are prime targets of anti-Assyrian/anti-Christian campaigns, killing and injuring many Assyrians. From 2004 to June 2006, 27 churches were attacked or bombed for the sole reason that they were houses of worship of Assyrian Christians. On one occasion, 6 churches were simultaneously bombed in Baghdad and Kirkuk, and on another occasion an additional 6 churches were simultaneously bombed in Baghdad and Mosul. Simultaneous church bombings is a recurring pattern ..."

"Iraq's 'liberation' has become the 'oppression' of Assyrians. The war in Iraq is silently taking its toll on the Assyrians particularly in the Northern regions of Kirkuk, Mosul and Baghdad where the Assyrian population is concentrated. In the Nineveh Plains and its surrounding regions, under the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), and through a dictatorship, Assyrian lands are being illegally confiscated ...

"There is no aid or funding going to the Assyrian regions under our American watch. Basic medical help is non-existent for these Christians. A woman cannot have a c-section in her neighborhood. She has to drive miles away and risk her life and the life of her unborn child to receive medical care ..." (The Wanderer, July 13, 2006).

Meanwhile, Chaldean Bishop Andreas Abouna of Baghdad, in an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need which supports persecuted Christians around the world, said that the number who have fled Baghdad could even be as high as 75 per cent of all the Christians.

The bishop estimated that 600,000 Christians had left since the invasion of 2003--most of them going to Turkey, Jordan and Syria, where they seek sanctuary (The Tablet, Aug. 12).
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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