Though it may not be known for this, Iraq is actually home to Christian communities that have been around since nearly the time of the Apostles. Because this community has for many centuries been a minority in Iraq, it has endured persecution and other difficulties throughout its long history.
The last 20 years, however, have brought an especially intense and onerous level of persecution down on the heads of Iraq’s Christians. Many of their communities and enclaves have been shattered and lain to waste, and the overall Christian population of Iraq is estimated to have fallen from about 15 million in 2003 to only a few hundred thousand today. Some estimate even lower numbers than that within Iraq proper.
Still, these Christians heroically cling to their faith.
Vicious Persecution of Christians in the Middle East
Kidnappings, murders and bombings are an everyday part of life for many Christians in the Middle East. Those who have been able to escape have fled to far-flung places like Australia, but many remain who are forced to contend with the horrors of religious persecution.
Unsurprisingly, these egregious assaults on Christians are linked to the rise of Islamic militancy all across the Middle East. More particularly, the situation in Iraq is the direct result of disastrous U.S. military intervention there beginning during the Bush years, which empowered both Iran and the many Wahhabist Islamist sects who had been crawling around Iraq.
Saddam Hussein, though unquestionably a brutal dictator, was at least able to keep the peace in Iraq enough to repress these militants.
After the U.S. overthrew him, a tide of violent Islamic radicalism burst forth, and Iraqi and other Middle Eastern Christians have been among that tide’s most prominent and unfortunate victims.
In particular, in 2014, ISIS swept over Iraqi cities like Mosul, murdering civilians, destroying churches and other priceless historical sites and artifacts and generally causing unspeakable mayhem.
Thanks to the policies of former President Donald Trump, ISIS had been reduced to a virtual nonentity in Syria and other typically war-torn Middle Eastern countries. But with the ascendency of the Biden administration, ISIS has returned to the fore. Biden’s CIA and State Department have already been meddling in the area, depositing weapons and funding and arming shady Islamist groups.
The resulting chaos, alas, was utterly predictable.
Speaking at a cathedral in Baghdad on Saturday, March 6, Pope Francis reassured suffering Christians that “Love is our strength, the strength of those of our brothers and sisters here… who have suffered prejudice, indignities, mistreatment and prosecutions for the name of Jesus.”
Middle Eastern Christians continue to hold on as best they can.