Little Green Footballs

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Iraqi Christians find safety in Syria

I'm sure Charles simply missed a story like this. It seems Iraqi Christians are seeking refuge in 'terror supporting', 'Christian/Jew hating' Syria rather than free, democratic Iraq.

Damascus, Syria -- Seated in his parish office, Father Sarmad Yousef reflected on his hard choices: to disobey his archbishop by remaining in Syria or to return to Iraq, where his name has appeared on a death list.

"After the Americans came, I was one of the people telling the Iraqi Christians not to leave," he said. "After the violence started, I stopped telling them that."

Christians all over Iraq face a similar dilemma as relentless violence engulfs the country, some directly targeting them.

Staying in the midst of the threats is dangerous, yet leaving means abandoning communities, church property and a heritage with centuries-old roots.

Before the U.S.-led war, roughly 750,000 Christians lived in Iraq, out of a population of 25 million. Most were Chaldean and Assyrian, but there also were Armenian, Jacobite and Greek Orthodox Christians and a small number of Protestants. Most of them lived either in Baghdad or in northern Iraq around Mosul.

Since then, 15,000 to 20,000 Christians have fled to Syria, according to Christian groups, out of "about 700,000" Iraqis, most of them in flight from the war, according to the U.N. high commissioner for refugees.

Yousef, a 30-year-old Chaldean Catholic who came here in August 2004, was the parish priest of Baghdad's St. Pathion Church, with 800 families under his stewardship. Today, he occupies a simple office in Damascus, decorated with small portraits of St. Therese, the patron saint of his new church, cradling a bouquet of pink roses.

He says he actively supported the United States when coalition troops first entered Baghdad in April 2003 and helped organize community meetings on their behalf. Such support came with grave risks, and he narrowly missed two drive-by shooting attacks.

But when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal came to light, Yousef says, his view changed. Nor was he alone.

"Before that, Iraqis loved Americans," said Yousef, his eyes lowered. "Directly after that -- those photos, that scandal directly destroyed the dignity of Iraqis."

7 comments:

Pablo said...

Why do Christians need to seek refuge?

On the face of it, it doesn't make sense. Iraq is largely Muslim, and Muslims are very peaceful, tolerant people.

What gives here?

MJ said...

Oh and Syria isn't largely Muslim is it?

The fact the quagmire in Iraq is driving Christians to an seek refuge in an Islamic dictatorship with a terrible human rights record because they fear for their safety in newly liberated, free and democratic Iraq.

So much for the War on Terror.

Pablo said...

I see. So democracy is scary, and Islamic dictatorships are not.

Thank you for clearing that up. It's helpful to know where you stand on such things.

What is it that you think is causing Christians to fear for their safety? "Quagmire" isn't descriptive of a threat.

MJ said...

I see. So democracy is scary, and Islamic dictatorships are not.

According to 20,000 Iraqi Christians....yes. What kind of fucked up war is being fought there when Syria is a safe alternative for Christians? Quagmire doesn't quite cover it your right. Monumental Fuck Up is about it. The War on Terror has increased terror, the liberation of Iraq has brought the country to its knees and killed thousands of innocent civilians, liberated Iraqis are now fleeing for their lives to surrounding countries....

All hail the Presidents War on Terror.

Pablo said...

What kind of fucked up war is being fought there when Syria is a safe alternative for Christians?

I believe it's the kind of war where Islamic fundamentalists are killing civilians indiscriminately.

It's the same sort of war that came to the Tube a couple of weeks back, isn't it?

The War on Terror has increased terror, the liberation of Iraq has brought the country to its knees and killed thousands of innocent civilians, liberated Iraqis are now fleeing for their lives to surrounding countries....

Wasn't Iraq already on it's knees? You know, genocide by sanctions. I believe thousands of innocent civlilians...nay, hundreds of thousands...were killed before we got there...by the previous regime. People were fleeing for their lives...which is why so many Iraqis are living happily in America.

From the sounds of it, bd, you think Iraq was better off with Saddam in charge. Is that true?

MJ said...

No I don't think it was 'better' under Saddam. I do however think that the illegal, reckless, badly thought out invasion by US and Coalition forces is now subjecting Iraqis to a war that is increasingly getting worse and the very people that George W. Bush claimed he was liberating are the ones dying and fleeing.

Pablo said...

So what's your solution, bd?