Iraqi Christians Better Off?

You may recall Ronald Reagan asking in the presidential debate a week before the 1980 election if Americans were better off than they were four years prior. Voters apparently didn’t think so. They sent Jimmy Carter packing to Plains, Georgia.

This week on our morning CBN News Channel show, I was asked if Iraqis are better off now than they were before the U.S. liberation of Iraq. I told interviewer Charlene Israel that the Iraqis are the best ones to answer that question. Most would probably say yes in some ways, no in others.

How about Iraqi Christians?

The Assyrian and Chaldean churches are among the oldest in the world and few Christians have suffered worse in recent years than these Iraqis.

Are they better off than before the war?

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, there were approximately 1.4-million Christians in Iraq prior to the war. Today, there are only about 500,000. Many have been killed and forced out; tens of thousands have sought refuge in neighboring countries and the West.

In a 2003 letter to President Bush, the USCIRF said this:

“Mr. President, this Commission is concerned that, barring strong U.S. leadership to ensure the protection of religious freedom and the promotion of tolerance in Iraq, the horrific repression of the previous regime could be replaced by ethnic and sectarian violence and by egregious violations of religious freedom and other human rights against members of Iraq’s diverse religious communities.”

Unfortunately for Iraqi Christians, the Commission’s fears came true: they’ve received little protection from their democratically elected government. More recently–despite an overall drop in violence in the country–the USCIFR said (in its annual report released May 2010) the situation hasn’t improved much for Christians and others:

“…Violence against religious minorities and their religious sites continued in 2009 and 2010, particularly in the northern disputed areas…the few official attempts in the past year to improve security in minority areas and for minority religious sites were largely ineffective. Moreover, perpetrators of attacks on minorities were rarely identified, investigated, or punished.”

So, what may be next for Iraqi Christians now that U.S. combat troops are no longer present to help protect them from religious violence? And what can American Christians do?

I posed those questions to The Voice of the Martyrs spokesman, Todd Nettleton. Watch and listen here: