The Archbishop of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, is warning the Western world that Iraq’s Christian community has shrunk from around 1.5 million to only 250,000 since 2003. After 1,400 years of persecution, Iraqi Christians now face extinction. The Archbishop warned that the killing of Christians and Yazidis is helping to spread Islam.
According to the BBC, while recently in London, the Rt. Rev. Bashar Warda claimed, “Christianity in Iraq, one of the oldest Churches, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom. Our tormentors confiscated our present, while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future. In Iraq there is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses. Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life's work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years.”
Archbishop Warda then reminded that in the past there were years of cooperation between Christians and Muslims in Iraq, a time known as the Islamic Golden Age. “Our Christian ancestors shared with Muslim Arabs a deep tradition of thought and philosophy. They engaged with them in respectful dialogue from the 8th Century. A style of scholastic dialogue had developed, and which could only occur because a succession of caliphs [Islamic political and religious leaders] tolerated minorities. As toleration ended, so did the culture and wealth which flowed from it.”
Christians throughout the Middle East also face persecution such as in Egypt where Coptic Christians are under attack from jihadists who bomb their churches and try to drive them out of northern Sinai. In Saudi Arabia, the Islamist element in the rebel groups persecuted the Christian minority. However, Saudi Arabia also allowed the first Coptic Christian mass last December.
The Archbishop went on to challenge the Western world to speak out against the persecution of Iraqi Christians, “Friends, we may be facing our end in the land of our ancestors. We acknowledge this. In our end, the entire world faces a moment of truth. Will a peaceful and innocent people be allowed to be persecuted and eliminated because of their faith? And, for the sake of not wanting to speak the truth to the persecutors, will the world be complicit in our elimination?”
The Bible reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:12, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Therefore, as we are commanded to in James 5:16, “…pray one for another, that ye might be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” we need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ facing extinction in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. If we don’t speak up against their persecution, who will?