‘Genocide’ of Christians in Iraq an understatement

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Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)
hands on prison barsA Chaldean pastor in Iraq insists that the term “genocide” fails to describe what Christians are truly experiencing in the Middle East.
Pastor Douglas al-Bazi witnessed tens of thousands of displaced Iraqi Christians fleeing their ancient homelands some 18 months ago — in an attempt to evade being slaughtered by the terrorist group Islamic State. He says that the press coverage of about the true extent of the Christian persecution taking place in Iraq has been minimal — resulting in most of the world forgetting about the atrocities endured by believers there.

In 2013, al-Bazi fled from his Baghdad home to safety in Iraq’s Kurdish north. He is now the head of the Mar Elia Church in Ainkawa, where he provides food and shelter for more than 112 Iraqi families who were part of the 125,000 refugees who escaped from ISIS during the summer of 2014. Al-Bazi helps many of these displaced Iraqis — along with 16 other local churches that serve as refugee centers in the area.

The 43-year-old pastor says that the refugees he is helping at his Mar Elia center live in 10-by-15-foot storage containers as temporary homes while they struggle to find work and schooling. He contends that they will still need to stay at his center for some time after the IS terrorists are conquered in the region because they are fearful that their original homes will not be safe places to which they could return.

“With the situation — the people that are in my center — they are going to stay for another 15 years at least,” al-Bazi told the Christian Post. “It is not just about the Islamic State. It is a problem there. I believe ISIS — sooner or later — they are going to go out, but how can we build the trust again for people?”

It didn’t start and won’t end with ISIS

Al-Bazi, who showed reporters — at a Washington, D.C. press conference hosted by In Defense of Christians — the blood-stained shirt he wore when ISIS abducted and tortured him for nine days in 2006, says that ISIS is not the only threat Iraqi Christians face.

“One of the big issues is the trust, because [the people who] turned against our people were their neighbors,” al-Bazi explained. “[Lost] trust that [asks], ‘If we are going to our home, will we be safe or are we going to be targeted again?’”

During the persecuted Christian’s visit to the nation’s capital to urge the United States government to address ISIS’s attack on Christians and other religious minorities as “genocide,” he maintained that Mesopotamian Christian’s plight started long before the onslaught of the Islamic State militants. He went on to explain that the attack on Christians in the area is more than genocide — it is an ongoing assault that has persisted for centuries that will not stop when ISIS suffers defeat.

“We are victims,” al-Bazi asserted. “The word [genocide] sometimes doesn’t make sense to us. Genocide is a big word here. To me and to my people, ‘genocide’ is a polite word. I think we need to find another word to be fitting for what has happened to my people. We are talking about systematic genocide. We are not talking about one [instance] just happening by the Islamic State. We are talking about a huge history of targeting our people. We are one of the oldest groups — Christians in Iraq and Mesopotamia. Just suddenly, we find ourselves losing everything.”


In order to try and express the dire situation Iraqi Christians are enduring, the compassionate pastor stressed that his people feel utterly out of place in the world.

“They wake up in the morning with a question mark about what [it] is going to be [like] at the end of the day,” al-Bazi continued. “They are the same questions — ‘Am I still living in the same container?’ ‘Am I going to stay in the same place?’ ‘Are my kids going to have a good education?’ ‘If one of my family members is going to be sick, will we find someone to take care of him?’ ‘If ISIS is gone and I go home, will I find my home?'”

He pointed how difficult it is to be displaced with no hope of establishing new roots in the near — or distant — future.

“To lose the sense of [belonging], this is actually harder [for] our people because my people actually miss the sense of having a country to call home,” the Iraqi Christian emphasized. “We don’t have that. My people think, ‘Where’s my home?'”

Relying on refugee centers and handouts from the Church and humanitarian organizations has left hundreds of thousands of Christians — and other religious minorities in Iraq who cannot find work — in desperate situations … physically, financially and emotionally. A major part of the problem, says al-Bazi, is that the refugees don’t speak the native Kurdish language in the region, making it very difficult to get an education there — even though the church has set up four schools for the region’s displaced children — let alone, to find a job.

The dire situation, however, has not caused the Iraqi Christians to question or turn their backs on God.

“My people are not actually blaming God for what happened — they are blaming man for what happened,” al-Bazi assured. “My people are looking for a future. But day-by-day, what is actually killing my people — let’s say [what is] hard for my people — is when they feel they are alone and forgotten. I am talking about the international community. That is what is actually more hard to us.”

An inspiration for the persecuted Church

Encouragement is a key focus of al-Bazi’s ministry, as he often shares his story of being abducted, tortured, shot and having his Baghdad church bombed by jihadists.

“In 2006, Bazi was kidnapped and tortured by Islamic militants for nine days before being freed after the church paid $170,000 in ransom for his release and the release of Father Samy Al Raiys,” the Christian Post’s Samuel Smith reports. “Bazi detailed that the terrorists smashed his teeth with a hammer, crushed his nose, broke two discs in his back, threatened to behead him and put an unloaded pistol to his head and pulled the trigger over 100 times.”

Al-Bazi is amazed that God has kept him alive through everything he has endured at the hands of the Islamic militants.

“I am surprised I am still alive” al-Bazi shared. “I spent nine days — and those nine days were really hard — but they actually changed a lot in my life and I cannot forget. I am not talking about the body pain, but I am talking about the soul pain. But you know, pain will continue, but it has given me a good lesson about life. And also I understand the pain of people. When I meet people who have been kidnapped or in a situation like me, I can say, ‘I understand [what] you are [going] through.'”

The compassionate Christian leader insists that even though the plight of Iraqi Christians is unlikely to change anytime soon, forgiveness — not a better way of life — is the key to healing.

“Without forgiveness, the pain will continue from generation to generation,” al-Bazi concluded. “When we talk to the people, we do not tell them that tomorrow will be better. But if we forgive, tomorrow is going to be better.”