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Why Aren’t Christians Passionate About What’s Happening to the Assyrians?
Christians are among those becoming ever-more passionate about a looming attack on Iraq - some passionately for, some passionately against.
But why are so few getting passionate about what’s happening to our Christian brothers and sisters, the Assyrians?
The mighty Assyrian empire, centred in what is now northern Iraq, dominated the Middle East for 300 years from around 911 BC, with Israel among many conquests. Its language, Aramaic, is thought to be that spoken by Jesus. The Assyrians were the first national group to convert to Christianity, around 70 AD, and they comprised many of the first Christian missionaries.
But the modern history is a lot less felicitous. As Rob Morse wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Assyrians were slaughtered by the Turks, a mass murder more forgotten than the Turkish genocide of the Assyrians' fellow Christians, the Armenians. Surviving Assyrians trekked to Baghdad, where they were massacred again and forced to Northern Iraq, along with Assyrians from Iran. There, along with the Sunni Muslim Kurds, they have suffered Saddam Hussein's depredations.
Now they could be victims again. In any post-war carve-up of Iraq, their homeland, the north, looks likely to be dominated by the Kurds. And while the Kurds certainly deserve their own land, they are already playing hardball with the Assyrians, working to consign them to second-class citizenship. Another worrying trend: growing signs of Islamic militancy among Kurdish groups.
Surprisingly, the Assyrians don’t seem to get much of a look-in at the various websites that document the persecuted church. The best website I have found is Nineveh Online, a comprehensive round-up of news and features on Assyria. The online Zinda magazine also has plenty of information.
Why do Christians not know more, and care more? (I confess that until a couple of months ago I too knew nothing about their plight.) Swedish politician Margareta Viklund explained:
The situation of the Christian Assyrians is unknown because they lack the political power and media influence necessary to make themselves heard. Sometimes even their religious leaders and/or communions accept oppression instead of attracting the world's attention to the oppression and persecution that Assyrians are subjected to. Another reason for international non-consciousness of the situation of the Assyrians is the fact that Assyrians constitute a minority in the countries where they are living.
Perhaps it’s time for a little passion.
January 17th, 2003