Tony Blair has helped destroy one of the oldest Churches on earth

Posted By: Ed West at Tags:View More Assyrians, Crusaders, george bush, Iraq, Iraqi Christians, Tony Blair

If George Bush and Tony Blair were “crusaders”, as Muslims insist, then they were the worst in history. Worst, that is, as in the most ineffective. What other Crusade has resulted in the Christian population of a country being almost totally destroyed?

Now that the Americans are leaving Iraq, the ancient Christian community, who converted in the second century while our ancestors were still worshipping rocks, and who still speak Aramaic, will pay the ultimate price. Nice one, Tony, you’ve helped to destroy one of the oldest Christian communities on earth and with it the language of Christ. Stick that on the wall of your inter-faith centre.

Iraqi Christians already endured hell. The figures vary, but the best estimates put the Christian population at 1.2 million in 1991, 800,000 in 2003 and less than 400,000 today. At this rate the Assyrians will be extinct before the black rhino; in fact it’s a shame they don’t have horns or fur or flippers, as their plight would undoubtedly have received more attention in the British media.

The Christian press in Britain has reported the ongoing pogrom – murders, kidnappings, church bombings – with growing horror, but unfortunately the public at large has not shown the same interest. I wonder whether a Christian massacre of Muslims would result in the same media black-out.

It’s sad but the ceremony yesterday, at which Pope Benedict addressed 50,000 Christians in Jordan, including many Iraqi refugees, may not be possible in 20 years. Jordan and Syria both treat their Christian populations well, but where they aren’t being persecuted the general economic stagnation of the Middle East is driving Christians west. It’s certainly the West’s gain – Middle Eastern Christians are the new Huguenots, disproportionately skilled and educated – but it’s also catastrophic for the remaining liberal Arabs, and for their chances of ever building viable, secular states in that part of the world.

Iraq’s remaining Christians and the exiles are divided between those who hope for a return to pre-Saddam, multi-faith Iraq, and those who’ve given up, and who instead want their own self-run area in the Nineveh Plains. The former are predominantly Chaldean Catholics, urban and Arab speakers who see themselves simply as Christian Arabs; the latter tend to be Assyrian Orthodox from the north, Aramaic-speakers who identify themselves as ethnic Assyrians, descendents of the ancient rulers of Nineveh.

European history suggests the latter group are the more realistic, although the scenario relies on American support, and that’s just not going to happen. The US is committed to holding together Iraq, for fear of unleashing a regional war, and also doesn’t want to upset its Kurdish allies, who hope to gobble up the Nineveh Plains into their de facto state.

I always thought we had the moral “right” to remove Saddam, a stain on humanity, but the execution of that removal was a disaster. We replaced the country’s mustachioed fascist leadership with bearded Islamofacists, which is by most standards a regression.

And the biggest tragedy is that, half a century after that country’s ancient Jewish community was destroyed, its Christian population is going the same way.