With more than 2 million Iraqis having fled their country and another 2 million displaced within, the feeling of insecurity and instability there is pervasive. Whether Sunni or Shi`ite Muslim, or Christian, Iraq's population of 27 million yearns for the day when calm and peace will prevail. The Christian population of Iraq, numbering about 1 million in 2003, is an ecumenical community-Catholics are the most numerous comprising roughly two-thirds of the Christian population, but there are also significant Orthodox communities (the Syrian and Armenian Orthodox are the largest), and a small Protestant presence that includes the five-congregation Presbyterian Church of Iraq. Feeling the same desperation all Iraqis are experiencing, Christians, like others, seek a more hospitable circumstance. They have been leaving at staggering rates.
A children's choir in the Assyrian Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Baghdad
Sectarian strife of this degree is a new phenomenon in Iraq, emerging and building over the past four years. Iraqi Christians and Muslims had enjoyed good relations until this most recent episode in the country's long history. While communal conflict has riddled Iraq and affected everyone, the Iraqi Christian population has been a target in part for its assumed association with the West-particularly the United States-and the military campaign it waged which has been a main cause of the instability of the country.
The Christians of Iraq desperately wish for an end to this war. They do not see the continued violence and military occupation by an outside power as a way to promote peace. At the same time, they ask not to be left alone. Christians in Iraq recognize the danger of an immediate total withdrawal of troops-dangerous to them and to the country. They ask for the implementation of a plan that would end occupation and recognize our responsibility for the rehabilitation of their country-both of which have been noticeably lacking.
In the midst of war and the policy debates, the Christians of Iraq have felt forgotten. Our Christian partners in Iraq ask for encouragement through our prayers and action in their time of trial.
Some things you can do:
- Observe a time of prayer each day at noon (Eastern time)-Iraqi Christians know that we will observe this vigil.
- Add your name to the 100,000 for Peace: Join Protest to Prayer petition associated with the UCC Collegium's Pastoral Letter on the Iraq War
- Support legislation that will address the mounting refugee crisis
- Communicate to your elected official that you are very concerned about the well-being of US troops and of the people (especially the Christians) of Iraq every day the war is prolonged; that you support a responsible plan for withdrawal-it is in our country's interest and in the interest of Iraqis; that you hope such a plan will address the refugee crisis and Iraq's rehabilitation needs; and that you support efforts to promote peace throughout the Middle East.
- Visit Global Ministries' Middle East and Europe home page for Iraq resources