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AP file photo A Christian boy looks on as he sits at the back of his family car after leaving Mosul, Iraq
Until our invasion of Iraq, the 1.4 million large Christian population in Iraq (7% of the population) was one of the oldest, large, healthy minority population anywhere in the world. It was/is one of the oldest Christian populations anywhere in the world. They enjoyed a above average economic life. Today they are seriously facing possible extinction, primarily through exodus.
Many westerners believe that Muslims and Islam are an intolerant society. And some are quick to point to this sad situation of Iraqi Christians today as proof of their assertion. How little do we contemplate things right in front of our noses! If indeed Muslims are extremely intolerant, how is it that these Iraqi Christians lived for over 1000 years among them? One may also consider that we cannot point to a single non-muslim society where a large, healthy religious minority (of any significant number) has existed for even 500 years! That the Iraqi Christians were in 2003 living in large numbers in Iraq as happy productive citizens is, if anything, a testament to tolerance in Islamic Societies.
Looking further back in history there were many events that could have destroyed a weak minority. There were the Crusaders from Europe to Palestine, there were the attacks by the Mongols that destroyed Baghdad and lay waste much of Mesopotamia. Later there was the invasion by the Ottomans and Iraq did see war during both the World Wars. There were also rulers of Iraq who are known in history for their cruelty, like Hajjaj bin Yusuf. But through all that the Christians in Iraq, sometimes suffering setbacks, were able to stay and keep their cultural identity (not being forced to convert) and remain healthy economically and socially. Saddam Hussein though a extremely cruel ruler, was quite good towards the Christians. Under him they did ,well and were well integrated in the society. It is still a surprise for some to learn that Tariq Aziz, Saddam Husseinâ€™s Vice President, was Christian.
But every society has weak links and needs to maintain order. We can remember the riots in LA a little over a decade ago when law and order broke down. Often minorities are exploited more when lawlessness occurs (as happened in LA with the Koreans and other Asians).
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq it is estimated over 2/3rds of the Iraqi Christians have left. And more are leaving every day. They lived there for over 1000 years of Muslim rule, they survived the Mongol hordes, they survived the two world wars. But this invasion has led to their decimation.
There were no weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. There was no link between Iraq and 9/11. There was no reason to invade Iraq. The Iraqi Christians have paid a very heavy price for our folly. And Iraqi Christians were a very valuable part of Iraqi society. Many were doctors and teachers. Their leaving will cause suffering for Iraqiâ€™s for decades to come.