Flight 17’s crash in Ukraine and the Israeli pounding of Gaza have taken center stage in the news during the past few days; however, there is a tragedy of enormous proportions taking place in Iraq, which is changing Christian history in the Middle East.

ISIS, also known as the “Islamic State,” has moved through Iraq fulfilling its violent mission of a caliphate-controlled region, with a five-year aggressive expansion plan that extends as far as Spain.  As such, they have brutally killed Christians– and expelled them from communities that date back to the 2nd Century, in the region now known as Iraq.

It is important to note that Christians pre-date the Islamic presence in the region. In addition, Christians in Iraq have contributed large numbers of scientists, educators and professionals in many fields. The final expulsion of what was left of the Christians in Iraq is a catastrophe.

Chaldean Catholics

Chaldean Catholics comprised the majority of Christians in Iraq. The Chaldean liturgy is in Syriac– which is a linguistic derivative of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. The Chaldean Patriarch, Emmanuel III Delly, was made a Cardinal by Benedict XVI in 2007. Cardinal Delly died on April 8, 2014 in San Diego, California–  home to a large Chaldean Catholic community.

During a meeting held with Francis in March 2013, the new Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Louis Raphael I Sako, expressed the urgent situation that the Chaldeans faced in Iraq, with hundreds of their faithful being martyred– including a bishop and priests.

Mosul

The Iraqi northern city of Mosul, chief city and provincial capital of ancient Nineveh, has been an important cultural and religious center for the Chaldeans. Mosul is also the center of Iraq’s oil production. On July 18, ISIS announced to the Christians of Mosul that they had to convert to Islam, pay hefty taxes, or die.

The Christian population that was left in Mosul has fled the city. Most of them are heading towards Kurdish territory, where the Kurdish government is willing to give them refuge, at least for the time being.  Many of these Christians are also relocating to Turkey, Lebanon– and wherever they can find jobs or reunite with family.  Church property has been confiscated–  and a disturbing photo of an 1,800 year-old church being torched in Mosul has been circulating on the internet.

ISIS is now controlling Sunni areas in northern Iraq and other ancient riparian trade centers along the Euphrates River, in Syrian territory.

Final thoughts

On a personal note, I will always be grateful to the Chaldeans who took an interest in my campaign for the United States Senate in 2012. The Christians of the Middle East are in my prayers. Their persecution and expulsion from these ancient lands is a tragedy of biblical proportions.

Someone has to say the truth…

Copyright © Marielena Montesino de Stuart. All rights reserved.

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