Religious harmony existed before Iraq invasion
Sunday, 11.14.2010, 06:55pm
One day before we went to press this week, a spate of early morning bomb and mortar attacks on homes of Christians in Baghdad left at least three people dead and 26 wounded, according to an interior ministry official. The day before that, three homes in the Mansur district of western Baghdad belonging to Christians were firebombed without causing any casualties.
The attacks came 10 days after 58 Christian worshippers, including two priests and seven security forces personnel died during the seizure of a Baghdad cathedral by militants and the ensuing shootout when it was stormed by troops.
On November 3, al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Baghdad cathedral bloodbath and warned it would further step up attacks on Christians.
The extremists said they had carried out the church attack to force the release of converts to Islam allegedly being detained by the Coptic Church in Egypt. Days afterwards it declared Christians "legitimate targets."
Iraqi Christian communities have co-existed alongside their Muslim neighbors for hundreds of years. The churches of the two main Christian groups, the Assyrians and Chaldeans, are dated back to the years A.D. 33 and 34 respectively. Iraqi society has long been known for its tolerance and acceptance of minorities. There were days when no one used such references as Shi'a, Sunni and Christians; there one Iraq and one Iraqi people. This has completely changed, for part of the strategy following the invasion of Iraq was to emphasize and manipulate the ethnic and religious demarcation of the country, creating insurmountable divides.
Once again, it has to be said: Terrorists do not represent the tenets of Islam in any way, nor do their actions, beliefs or statements represent the views of the world's Muslims.
Muslims and their holy book the Qur'an consider Christians "people of the book," or spiritual cousins. Jesus is considered a holy prophet, Mary is revered, the virgin birth a shared belief. Respect for Christians and Jews is of paramount importance. A clean life, responsibility for one's actions, maintenance of strong family ties and promotion of community welfare are basic tenets of the faith.
Everyone in our community must join hands and work together on a daily basis on issues of shared concern. This Arab American community must first demonstrate to those in the Arab world that living and working together can continue today as it has for centuries in our homelands. And then we must focus on reducing sectarian violence. We must make it known that this is not the way people in Iraq want to live, but that these incidents happen as a result of many factors. They are spurred by those who want to make Muslims look bad. They are planned by politicians juggling for power. They are often planned and carried out by those who don't want peace to reign in the Arab world. They are least of all a result of religious intolerance.
Attacks against Arab Christians in Iraq or anywhere else on the basis of their faith are unacceptable. We condemn these attacks against Iraq's Christians in the strongest terms possible. We were glad the community came out this week and so strongly protested the attacks and demanded protection for Iraq's Christians from the Iraqi governments and U.S. occupying forces in Iraq. The United Nations charter requires that occupying forces must protect the lives and properties of those who are occupied. We second that call. The people of Iraq, all the people of Iraq, belong where they are, with equal rights and opportunites and equal protection under the law. Christians have made an indelible mark on the Middle East, they were there before Muslims, they belong there. And there they should remain.
Some people are suffering from lack of work, some from lack of water, many more from lack of wisdom.