I am publishing below in full a news article that illustrates the plight of minorities in the Middle East, particularly Christians. As the American forces pulled out of Iraq recently, they proclaimed that they were leaving behind a stable democratic state. The reality is far from that as Iraq implodes into even worse sectarian violence. Read on…
Vicar of Baghdad: ‘We Have Been Left and We Have Nothing!’
According to the popular cleric, Canon Andrew White, the ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ who serves St. George’s Church in Baghdad, conditions have grown worse for the Christian community since the American departure. Among the exclamations of the Christians in Iraq is the statement: “We Have Been Left and We Have Nothing!”Canon White told ANS in a recent update: “None of us thought there would be any change here after the US troops left. They had not been seen on the streets for two years. We were totally wrong: from the day that the US military left we were in total chaos and disarray.“Violence increased, religious sectarianism increased again in force. We could not even enter the Green Zone, as any badges issued by the US were no longer valid; the new badges were simply not being issued.
Total mayhem politically began with the prime minister issuing a warrant for the arrest of the Vice President Tariq Al Hashami. He was accused of terrorism, and sadly there was a lot of evidence to suggest this was true.”
White said that with this action, great significance was placed on the fact that the Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki was Shia and the Vice President was the most senior Sunni political figure in the country. “Terrible sectarian violence targeting the Shia has begun,” White said.White continued: “There were also coordinated attacks on the institutions of the state, including on the Foreign Ministry, which is very close to St. George’s Church. With the arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President issued by the Shia Prime Minister, the fragile coalition government is fracturing down sectarian lines and turning violently on itself.“What I most feared would happen, is happening. I said all along that it wouldn’t make any difference to us if the Americans leave. I was really wrong,” said White.White stated: “It is becoming really difficult in Iraq right now. Before, we knew that the US were just around the corner, so we could get them if we needed them, but now they are not there. But we won’t give up, we won’t stop our work, and by God’s grace we will keep going.”Canon White said events in Iraq have escalated in recent days, as the departure of the US troops appears to have sparked a series of attacks and disputes within the divided country.Just one week ago, US President Barack Obama declared: “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government elected by its people.”White says the reality is “swiftly proving to contradict the President’s words.”Canon white said there have been attempts to ransack both al Hashami’s office and that of al Maliki in recent days.“There has even been a car bomb in the supposedly secure Green Zone. The attacks form part of wider and increasing sectarian violence in Iraqi society,” he said.He continued: “Even as the US troops left Iraq, the fear of the Christians and other minorities has increased. They say, ‘At least before, under the old regime we were protected; now we have nothing. Those who have set us free from an evil dictator have now left us and we have nothing.’”White asks: “What is this ‘nothing’? It is no security (where) before the Christians, as minorities, were protected. The evil regime of Saddam (Hussein) was led by man who was not the Shia majority but a Sunni from the second group not the first. When the foreign troops were here, even though we often did not see them, they were not far away and if and when we needed them they were there.“There are times when we ourselves face great danger. Our people have been slaughtered, massacred and murdered, but now we have nobody to turn to. There has been much talk about the security needs of our people. The Iraqi Government has tried to do what it can, but we do not live in a ghetto. The Christians are based all over Iraq, but especially in Baghdad and Nineveh/Mosul. 2,700 years after Jonah, Nineveh is still the place where all Christians come from. So the Christians and all minorities are less safe than they have ever been,” Canon White said.“ ‘Nothing’ is far more than security though. Employment is far more limited, not least for women. The main industry is now security, and for the Christians — educated women — things are more difficult than ever in an increasingly orthodox Islamic state. A state where the rights of women have sadly diminished,” he said.“No employment means no money, and that means no ability to buy food, pay rent for housing, or even possess proper health care. The health care system here in Iraq has seriously collapsed. The hospitals are falling to pieces and many of its leading doctors have been killed, kidnapped or have fled from Iraq.”Canon White said that although he may be the leader of a church, “but after services each week I also have to give all my 4,000 plus people food for the week.“We have had to establish a large clinic with doctors, dentists, laboratory, and specialist units and also a pharmacy. All treatment is totally free — and it is not just restricted to Christians either, but is totally open to all and is totally free of charge. In addition to these services we also have also built a school to provide excellent education to our many children. It is fortunate that we can provide this service for our people, but we did not envisage that this long after 2003 we would still have to, but we do.