As many of you know, over the past few weeks the plight of Christians in Iraq has been gaining visibility due to killings and threats on their lives in Mosul. Like most people, I will be the first to acknowledge that my understanding of the history, issues and complexities impacting the Middle East region is sorely lacking. Still, when we hear about this kind of violence directed at any of community, Christian or not, we must find ways to lift our voices in solidarity and use whatever power we may have to intercede. For this reason, Linda, Gradye and I, in consultation with those in our church that best understand the nuances of the situation, have written both a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, as well as a statement on the violence that is taking place.
Both the letter and statement are below, but I would also encourage you to read the complete Presbyterian New Service Story. Please feel free to post this on your blog, newsletters and other means of communication so we can continue to remember those being persecuted for following their faith.
LETTER TO IRAQI PRIME MINISTER NURI AL-MALIKI
from Linda, Gradye and Bruce
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki:
We write to you today out of a grave sense of concern for the Christian community of Mosul. As any other minority in Iraq, they should be defended against the recent terrorist acts, which seem intended to eliminate the Christian presence in the region.
News reports, and the personal accounts of members of the Iraqi Presbyterian church, have drawn particular attention to the escalating violence against Christians in that region, as over two dozen Christians have been killed (others have been wounded), and more than 1,000 Christian families have fled the city.
We are grateful for your intervention which sent additional police to Mosul, ordered an investigation into the attacks on Christians, and pledged to take all steps to protect the Christians of that area. Early reports indicate that your steps have diminished the violence.
The Christian community in Mosul is one of the oldest in the world. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of engagement with Iraqi Christians, dating back to the early 1800’s, with a special emphasis on education, health care, and social service to all Iraqis as well as on church development. But both before and since our connections with our sisters and brothers there, Christians have been an integral part of the history and culture of your country.
Our church’s General Assembly, this past June, adopted a call of concern for all the people of Iraq, urging our members to:
“Pray for, call for, and work for a just and peaceful future for the nation and people of Iraq which includes the establishing of a just, stable, and democratic government and the timely departure of U.S. military forces and their contractors as soon as it is possible to leave the nation in an appropriately stable, just, and self-sustaining form.”
We are grateful for your efforts to establish a just and peaceful future for the nation and people of Iraq. As you continue these efforts, we ask that you ensure the security of Christians within your nation. The situation in Mosul is very desperate. Along with the rest of the world we are watching and praying that you will move to restore order.
Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly
Linda Valentine, Executive Director, General Assembly Council
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Office of the General Assembly
STATEMENT FROM ON VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN MOSUL
from Linda, Gradye and Bruce
We are profoundly alarmed by the reports coming out of Iraq of the increasing, targeted acts of terror and violence against Christians in Mosul.
We lament the violence and destruction that have been happening in Iraq since the beginning of the war. This latest news of what appears to be religious cleansing adds yet another layer of concern.
The roots of Christianity in Mosul are deep, going back to ancient times. An Iraq without a Christian presence is contrary to what has historically made the Iraqi society a model of harmonious inter-religious relations, and portends a future marked by intolerance and fanaticism.
Word that the government of Iraq has increased its security forces in Mosul to help stem this most recent violence is encouraging. We have sent a letter to the Iraqi leadership, calling on them to continue efforts to protect all Iraqi citizens – Christians and Muslims – from acts of terror and violence that are aimed toward the systematic destabilization of the country.
We call on Presbyterian leaders and leaders of other religious communities to work together as people of faith to continue to teach, encourage and practice tolerance toward people of faith traditions other than their own.
We also continue our call to the United States government to take responsibility for supporting the Iraqi government as it establishes a just, stable, and democratic government.
Our concern for the safety and well-being of Christians stretches beyond Iraq to India, China, and other parts of the world where violence and an attitude of religious intolerance are present.
Wherever such an attitude is present – regardless of the religious affiliation or motives of those who hold it – humanity is diminished and the reality of God’s peaceable realm is pushed farther away.
Please join us in continued prayers for peace and the safety of all people – and especially for Christian brothers and sisters who are living under the threat and reality of violence.