KARAMLIS: Iraq’s Christians have taken up arms and formed militias in a desperate effort to defend their beleaguered communities from Islamic extremists.
In the five years since the Anglo-American coaltion invasion, murders and abductions have forced about half of the 800,000 Christians who once lived in Iraq to flee the country.
Checkpoints manned by civilians with heavy machineguns and rifles have received official backing in Christian villages on the Ninevah plain in northern Iraq, where their presence dates back to the missions of St Thomas the Apostle.
Politicians in the local capital, Mosul, had prevented the Christians forming local militias, equipped and armed by the coalition, even though militias have dramatically reduced violence elsewhere in Iraq.
These objections have now been dropped and the patrols have already had an impact. New buildings are going up in Christian areas and there is a renewed willingness to resist the demands of Muslim radicals.
“Why should Christians face arrest for not fasting in Ramadan?” Father Yusuf Yohannes, a priest and security overseer, asked.
“Why is it that women should cover their faces if God loves all human beings? We reject these things and want the right to our own culture.”