Shall This People Die? was the title of a 1920 work by the Bishop of Mosul detailing the destruction of one-third of the Assyrian-Chaldeans then living in modern Iraq. While the world watched – and did little to stop – the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians and the complete transformation of eastern Turkey into a Muslim region after 1700 years of Christianity, the destruction in Iraq was little known. Today, the archbishop of Mosul says, My diocese does not exist.*
Set aside all the politicking. These new Muslim warriors who have swept out of the desert are, unbelievably, more fierce than those who swept into the Holy Land and Fertile Crescent in the 7th century. These use their interpretation of Mohammed’s words to go beyond anything his soldiers did. Christians cannot even pay a tax – a tax made so impossibly high no one could pay. Women are swept away – to what fate? But true to Islamic form, the “pagans” , the Yazidis, are doomed again. This is the 73rd Muslim-organized massacre of Yazidis. Thanks to high tech weaponry, it just might be the last.
While initially telling the last Christians of Mosul they could stay if they could find pure gold to pay as tax, the Islamists changed their minds and told them to get out, while knocking crosses off domes and burning Syriac manuscripts from the Middle Ages. At the edge of town, the Christians were searched: jewelry, money, watches all taken away; suitcases seized; cars emptied; and the last heirs of a tradition dating to Saint Bartholomew and Saint Jude were sent out on foot.
The Yazidis on Mount Srinagar are in the same position. They fled with donkeys, not cars or trucks, trying to reach the Kurds. In the Great War, Kurds killed Christians and others. In this War of the Islamic Caliphate, the Kurds are the last hope. The Kurds and American planes which are dropping water and food – for how long?
The mess of the Middle East dates back to the Sazonov-Sikes-Picot agreement. Instead of granting the Ottoman Empire’s people freedom in their own countries, and instead of rewarding long-suffering minorities who had put all their trust in the Allies, the Great Powers drew lines on maps to partition the empire. Russia’s collapse in 1917 resulted in the Bolsheviks revealing the secret deal to the world, but for naught. Requests for Assyrian and Kurdish enclaves were regularly rejected; Assyrians were subjected to more massacre, but the Powers did not act. The Kurds were divided up into new countries despite being promised a homeland. Arab fighters were betrayed. Syriac Christians were given no protection to stay in their homeland of Tur Abdin: there are more Syriacs living in cold Sweden than there. From northeastern Greece to Iran, the Christian homeland evangelized by Paul and his disciples was subjected to massacre, deportation, kidnapping of children, and gang rape of women from 1915-1933. Greeks whose ancestors built Troy were sent packing. The descendants of Nineveh, of Babylon, of ancient Persia died because they believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. One of our oldest languages was banned in Turkey because it is the language of Christianity (Syriac).
We observe the 100th anniversary of the Great War. A terrorist killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his pregnant wife. Serbia, sponsor of terrorism against the Austrians, agreed to almost all of the empire’s demands, but anger overrode justice, and alliances kicked in and an entire world order was destroyed in four years and laid the foundation for the worst war in history to take place 20 years later. That War’s injustices also created the Middle East that is changing by the day. And once again, the Great Powers of the world have watched Christians in Iraq and Syria being butchered, except now on You Tube and CNN, live. Warnings came from Popes St John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis to chart a different course but no leader listened. Experts warned that without US bases and advisers, Iraq was not stable enough to form a working democracy. Was American and Allied blood shed on Iraqi sands for nothing? We are “war-weary” pundits say. Really? Only 1% of Americans are in the service; there is no rationing; no warning sirens of incoming rockets; no limits on entertainment; no somber music playing when a soldier dies in Afghanistan, not even for a general; no risk of car bomb every time we go shopping or to church. And we are war-weary?
Once again, the Pope weeps. Mothers weep. Old people die far from home, and babies are buried under stones in the hope that wild animals will not dig them up. Fathers are in despair.
Iraq’s political class still cannot come up with a leader who will unite all the peoples of their dying country. And don’t point fingers: our own Congress remains deadlocked and hostile, and went on a five week vacation instead of fixing our problems!
This Islamic Caliphate will not be satisfied with the final expulsion of the Christians and the last Yazidis. There are Shiites to be killed, Jews to be slain, heretics to die, the West which they blame for all of their problems must be punished. And central Africa burns, east Ukraine burns, Gaza is obliterated because Hamas keeps on shooting at Israel, Latin American wives come with their babies looking for their husbands who had to leave countries destabilized by Americans’ demand for illegal drugs and support for military dictatorships in the past.
Oh – The Pope sent a Cardinal right into the heart of the fighting. But the leader of the most powerful, richest nation ever seen on this planet left on holiday and to do some more fund-raising.
May the modern martyrs forgive us for leaving them abandoned – again.
Refugees from Qaraqosh in an Erbil church; the IS army is 18 miles away today.
May Westerners who were baptized by believing parents realize that they are hated because of that baptism, and come to consider that being spiritual but not religious is not enough.
May the day come when mothers do not have to weep over dead babies, when fathers are not in despair at the thought of no future, when both the culture of death of this caliphate and of our own secularists who kill the old and sick rather than nurse and love them will be overthrown.
May the Pope not have to weep over an ever-growing body count around this planet.
May the fact that 75% of persecution is against Christians no longer be true.
May the Prince of Peace rule in people’s hearts, not death. Sweet Jesus, save us all. You are our only hope, the Savior of the world. Save us from ourselves!