Save the Christians of Iraq

Hundreds of Christians joined the demonstration which took place at 1530 to 1830 in front of the Federal Building in Los Angeles on Wenesday July 25th, 2007. Step by step with the demonstration, which was organized by the Assyrian American Association, Assyrian Church of the East, St. Mary Church, St. Paul Church, to decry the persecution of our people in Iraq, a humanitarian crisis which has been long ignored, Mr. William Warda the Chairman of Assyrian American Association in LA said, “Our churches and businesses have been destroyed. Tens of thousands have been kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to leave behind whatever they have and flee to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon or have escaped to northern region of Iraq.”
 Father George Bet Rasho said, “our Assyrian nation in Iraq suffers due to the lack of food, clothing, housing and other vital needs.”
 Innumerable churches have been bombed, religious and political representatives have been kidnapped and beheaded. Nuns have been raped. Christian women in Baghdad are forced to wear a veil in order not to be exposed to violence. In December of 2006, several sellers of Christmas trees were kidnapped and killed.
 At the local elections in 2005 around 20,000 Assyrian votes disappeared. The brutality and the threats against the Assyrian population must be observed. What is going on in Iraq is nothing else than a quiet ethnic, cultural and religious cleansing. The country, like the rest of the Middle East, is becoming emptied of its Christians. It’s a trauma for the victims, and the demography in the area is changing in a very obvious way.
 For the Assyrians, the thoughts are going back to World War I, when about a half million were slaughtered by the Turkish government and their Kurdish neighbors. All while the world watched without coming to rescue. Neither the world around nor the perpetrators has still recognized the Genocide of 1915. In that light the events of today are frightening.
 During the first Iraqi war the Christian population was estimated to about two million. Today it’s spoken of as around 800,000. The figures are uncertain, because it is not known how many have fled. But it is clear that the Christians are strikingly over represented among those who escape. Many of them are in Sweden, where also Father Ragheed Ganni was active in the parish of St. John in Sodertalje. But most of them who escape remain in countries like Jordan and Syrian. There, they live under very difficult conditions.
 Before the invasion apprehensions were expressed that the Christians would be punished for the American “crusade”. But the anxiety was mixed together with the hope of a better life in freedom, maybe with an autonomy, self-determination in the so-called the Nineveh Plain where the Assyrians are in majority. But from no direction there has come a political or economical support for such a solution.
 What before the war looked like a possibility for the Assyrians, who after 2000 years of persecutions could have a possibility to govern themselves in their own area, became a nightmare. Those responsible for the invasion must make good on their political responsibility, especially for the defenseless, and stop this ethnic cleansing. The Assyrians must be guaranteed full security.
In 1919 the Assyrian were promised Land by U.K. in North of Iraq, they never followed through that promise to live safety and peacefully inherited and ancestral land. Today they need a fair and brave decision from U.N. and the governments of U.S. and European countries.
 This demonstration was covered by Channel 11 News (Fox), Arabic newspapers, The Daily Newspaper and Al Jazeera English channel.