Tuesday, May 4, 2010

+Georges Khodr on Iraqi Christians

The original column from al-Nahar, published March 6, 2010 can be found here.

The Christians of Iraq and Elsewhere

It is very easy to say that they are being exterminated or displaced by the civil war in Iraq. I understand that Sunni and Shii combatants die. This is a rule of war. Or I understand that those who resist the American occupation die. This is a story of arms. But the Christians of Mosul and of elsewhere in Iraq did not take part in the civil war and are not in the resistance. For what reason are they lead to their deaths or to expulsion from the country they love and in whose civilization they have taken part since the times of Sumer and Babel?

What has taken hold in Iraq, a country that was once so attached to Arabism and was at the forefront of the Arab countries in civic consciousness? If the government defends all its citizens without regard to religion or sect, then why are attacks focused on them and why do we calmly watch the spilling of this innocent blood? “whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind (Surat al-Ma’ida 32).” I am not comfortable blaming the death of every Christian in Iraq on al-Qaeda or on any revivalist or fundamentalist movement. Al-Qaeda and similar groups also kill Muslims. Is this a matter or religious enmity, outside the scope of the war? I do not know. It is up to the Iraqi government to investigate this. But who will ask the Iraqi government?

It is forbidden for a Christian to take revenge. By definition he forgives those who attack him. However, I cannot accept Arabs killing Arabs because of their religion. First of all this was not present in principle. And to the best of my knowledge the principle of enmity between the majority and the minority did not exist in Iraq prior to this war. There is wanton killing there that I can only understand as intending the scattering of the Christians in that great country.

Who desires this?

I understand that the Americans are not eager to preserve the minorities. They were not interested in this for a single day. We know where their interests lie. I was counting on the minorities being under the care of the state. It does not appear that this will be realized in this brother country or nor is there any indication that this will be realized. I am no psychologist, but I hope to understand from psychologists that the civil war stirred up feelings among some against the minorities. Does the victim in the moments before he is slaughtered feel that his killer truly became an enemy on account of religious feelings within himself? I have no answer to this. However, this must be made clear in order to heal the future of coexistence if there is any hope of coexistence.


I will mention something that someone said to me: The current situation is one of general confusion and in this atmosphere Christians are being killed. This argument is refuted by the fact that no Christians are taking part in the war. For sincere, thoughtful, people, this is a threat to the state’s existence as a state. But before they speak with their politicians, all Iraqis must cry out and protest out loud in order to purify their consciences and together build a civilized nation after the end of current events.

I do not scour the newspapers to see if there is a single Muslim in Lebanon crying out in the face of these criminals in Iraq. The important thing is that such a man should testify to his brotherhood with the Christians in Mosul, Baghdad, and elsewhere or that he testify to shared Arabness. Silence is murderous. It makes you feel like you’re a foreigner.

A non-Christian in Lebanon asked me: What will happen to us after this attempt at exterminating the Christians of Iraq? I assured him by saying that the Muslims of Lebanon not only love us but are eager for us to remain here with them. I told him this in order to spread peace in people’s hearts and contentment with cooperation with Muslims. However, I would like to be made surer that there is not the strong desire among certain jihadist, takfiri groups to expel the Christians through terror.


What happened in Egypt—I mean the killing of Copts—in terms of means and motive, the main motive being hatred, is nothing new. This has occurred for years and the government also does not act because it seems to fear the masses or some fundamentalist segments. Do you not remember that the Copts were at the forefront of resistance to the English in 1919? Do you not know that the one of the major leaders of the Wafd Party was the Christian Makram Obeid? Have you not read that Pope Shenouda always refused to use the word “minorities” when the Americans were agitating to stir up this question in terms of human rights law? The Christians in historical Palestine have become 2% of the population. Jerusalem, which prior to the occupation had a substantial Christian population while now the Christian population does not surpass one or two large Christian villages in Lebanon.

What is the difference between evacuation and expulsion? Evacuation is a band of silk that does no harm and expulsion is a band of silk that strangles. The solution is in the hands of understanding, pure and strong Muslims. How do you rein in the killing? I do not know. Verbal sympathy is not enough. Loud outcry is not enough. Islam does not reject using power within the state or outside the state. For hundreds of Iraqis to be exterminated is a great problem. For ten or more Copts to be slaughtered every year in Upper Egypt is a question laid before the Egyptian entity and the laws within it. In the face of all these horrors the Islamic conscious cannot just look on, especially since so many tongues and so many pens have talked for a very long time about Islamic tolerance. Does this remain on the wish list or will Islamic societies truly become free societies for all rational creatures within them?

We want to live with Muslims in the European sense of the word “freedom.” We desire God’s peace upon them and for them to flourish in every way. This is at least what pious Christians say. I am not talking here about Lebanon where the hearts are one and in my view they are united whatever the form of the government or its organization may be. I have the right to hope that our Muslim brothers will resist the fanatic movements that work against them with the same power that they work against us. However, the Lebanese model does not protect against the movement that might come from abroad.

This movement needs an Islamic denunciation from here and a Lebanese Islamic movement to teach the Arabs freedom for all kinds of people no matter whether they are close or distant in belief. It is not the place here to point to what happens to Christians in Pakistan and Indonesia. I believe that the Arab Muslims are the teachers or tolerant Islam in the world. However this requires a true belief in complete freedom. How their leaders can derive this from their heritage-- that is their concern. I do not have patience for to wait for the God that the Muslims worship to be my assurance.

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