The Plight of Christians in Iraq

By Jamie Glazov

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is William J. Murray, the chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition in Washington, DC. During the early 1980’s, he served as director of Freedom’s Friends, an organization which reached out to the victims of communism worldwide. In the 1990’s, he founded the first commercial Bible publishing company in the Soviet Union. For many years his organizations operated evangelistic tours to the Soviet Union for Christians.

From his office in Washington, D.C., Mr. Murray continues to work for the rights of Christians in America and persecuted Christians around the world. Under his guidance, the Religious Freedom Coalition assists Palestinian Christian families and supports Christian schools in the West Bank. He also directs aid to Iraqi Christian refugees who have fled Islamic extremism.

William Murray has appeared on ABC, CBS and NBC nightly news as well as Nightline and various Fox News programs. He is a regular guest on numerous radio talk shows.

FP: William J. Murray, welcome to Frontpage Interview.william-murray1.jpg

Murray: I am happy to be of assistance on any point I am familiar with.

FP: Share with us the plight of Christians in Iraq today.

Murray: American political correctness and the Bush Administration’s fear of Islamic backlash have caused the greatest “urban refugee” crisis in history. More than half of the Christian population has been forced to flee their homes in Iraq because of Islamic violence against them. Their churches have been burned and bombed. The official position of the Administration has been that “Coalition Forces assisting the Christians would cause them to be identified with the United States and have even more problems.” As a result they receive no assistance in defending themselves at all. Immediately after the American invasion of Iraq, the Christian militias were disarmed. They were the only militias to be disarmed. American forces allowed both the Sunnis and Shiites to keep their armed militias. Christians first fled from Baghdad to the Nineveh Plains, and then to Jordan and Syria. In Jordan and Syria the American embassies told Iraqi refugees to go to the United Nations because their plight “was not an American problem.” Excuse me?

Meanwhile the official position of the State Department under Condi Rice is that Christians are harassed by “criminal elements” in Iraq and that no persecution exists. That attitude has caused even greater persecution and led our embassies and other nations to be unhelpful.

FP: Why are Muslims in Iraq engaging in violence against Christians?

Murray: The only truly safe place for Christians, Jews or any other religious minorities in the Middle East is a strictly enforced secular system. Mullahs preach hatred from the pulpit in all officially Islamic nations. Their calls for violence are also heard in semi-secular nations such as Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. With a “holy book” that gives Muslim men the authority to seize the property and even wives of non-Muslim men, the message of the Mullahs is eagerly received, particularly in times of turmoil. In Iraq tens of thousands of Christian homes have been seized by Muslims with the approval of the Mullahs.

FP: Why were Christian militias the only ones disarmed immediately after the American invasion of Iraq?

Murray: Those of us who have questioned the State Department on the disarming of the Christian militias have received mixed answers. However, the favorite answer seems to be that allowing Christians to bear arms in Iraq would give the impression that the United States was leading a “Christian crusade,” and thus it was better for our image to allow the slaughter of Christians.

FP: Why is the American position that Iraqi Christian refugees are not an American problem?

Murray: Our government, that is the Bush Administration, does not want the financial and moral obligations that come with the actual declaration of refugee status. As a result none of the refugees, Christian or otherwise, are considered refugees officially by our government. There has been a special effort to make sure that Christians who have fled Iraq are not given any priority treatment despite the fact that they represented a far larger percentage of those who fled compared to their actual percentage of the population.

FP: Why does the State Department under Condi Rice deny that persecution exists?

Murray: Condi Rice values good relations with Islamic dictatorships who are the worst offenders of human rights in the world. Recognizing that Christians are persecuted in the Middle East would offend the corrupt royalty of Saudi Arabia and make our relations with other dictatorships we rely on for oil more difficult. In other words the lives of the Christians in the Middle East are of less value to Condi Rice than the flow of capital to the markets in the US.

FP: The international community and media in general seem to be awfully disinterested when Muslims persecute Christians and other non-Muslims. Why?

Murray: It is just politically incorrect in left leaning media circles to write about the persecution of Christians. The media also turns a blind eye to slavery which openly exists in Muslim nations. The prejudice against Christianity within European and American news outlets is so great that any religion or philosophy such as Islam or atheism is viewed as a better alternative.

FP: Tell us more about the state of the Iraq refugee situation.

Murray: Literally millions of Iraqis, both Christian and Muslim, have fled to neighboring nations. Most Christians have fled to Syria, because it is the last truly secular nation in the Middle East. It is a secular dictatorship, as was Iraq before our invasion. The only safe place for Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims in the Middle East are secular dictatorships. President Carter destroyed the secular government in Iran. Iraq is in chaos and now Condi Rice has targeted the secular dictatorship in Syria, about the last safe place in the Middle East for non Muslims.

The condition of the refugees, particularly the Christians, is appalling. In Amman, Jordan there are no tent cities and no official refugee sites. Instead, as many as three or four families live in one apartment. Iraqis are forbidden to work in Jordan or Syria and often the children are put to work instead. Middle class women whose husbands were murdered in Iraq before they fled, have been forced into prostitution.

FP: What can be done?

Murray: The Iraqi war is our war, we own it and the refugees are our responsibility, not that of the United Nations. The State Department should stop playing down numbers and start living up to responsibility.

FP: And what does living up to responsibility entail?

Murray: A lot of money being spent to undo the damage would be the solution. Since our government borrows huge amounts from the Chinese and Saudis, this becomes awkward, particularly in the current financial environment. Within the past few weeks the Bush Administration has risked tens of billions of tax payer dollars to bail out foreign debt holders. Yes … you read that right; the bail out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paid off the foreign debt holders while leaving American stock holders with nothing. Our treasury secretary actually called the Japanese, Chinese and Saudi investors to personally tell them their investments in our banking system would be protected.

FP: What can individual citizens do to help?

Murray: There are two actions that concerned Americans can take to assist the Iraqi Christian refugees. First, they can call their congressman and Senators and demand that we treat those who have fled Iraq with the same care as we did those who fled Vietnam at end of that war. Secondly, they can assist those non-profit organizations who are aiding the Iraqi refugees, particularly Christian Iraqi refugees.

FP: William Murray, thank you for joining us.

Murray: Thank you.