The Pope Visited Iraqi Christians, Victims of U.S. Foreign Policy “ذا ناشونال انترست”: البابا زار المسيحيين العراقيين ضحايا السياسة الأميركية

Reckless decisions to invade and nation build in other countries leads to more harm than good.

https://www.reutersconnect.com/all?id=tag%3Areuters.com%2C2021%3Anewsml_RC286M9R4560&share=true

March 8, 2021

 by Bonnie Kristian

Pope Francis just wrapped up a trip to Iraq this week for the first-ever papal visit to the country, a trip the Vatican has described as “an act of love for this land, for its people and for its Christians.” While there, Francis celebrated Mass in several cities and visited biblical locations like Nineveh and Ur. He also toured the remnants of Christian communities in one of the most ancient homes of the Christian faith.

This papal visit was meant to encourage Iraq’s few remaining Christians. It should also occasion solemn reflection in the United States, a country in which two in three people profess Christianity—and also the country whose misguided foreign policy contributed to the near eradication of Christianity in Iraq.

When the United States invaded Iraq eighteen years ago in March 2003, Christians accounted for 6 percent of the country’s population, numbering around 1.5 million. Christians in Iraq’s single largest sect, the Chaldean Church, still speak a variant of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Saddam Hussein’s regime was hardly friendly to Christianity—Hussein was known to persecute religious minorities, Christians included, and he canceled a previous papal trip—but Christianity was generally tolerated, and Iraqi Christians worshipped in a continuous, 2,000-year-old tradition.

After the United States invaded and toppled Hussein, violence against Iraqi Christians increased as terrorism surged into the country. Prominent clergy members were murdered. Churches were bombed. Christian worship became a life-endangering choice. “[The men of my congregation] are mainly killed. Some are kidnapped. Some are killed. In the last six months things have gotten particularly bad for the Christians. Here in this church, all of my leadership were originally taken and killed,” said Rev. Canon Andrew White, an Anglican vicar in Baghdad, in 2007. “All dead. But we never got their bodies back. This is one of the problems. I regularly do funerals here but it’s not easy to get the bodies.”

White told CBS the plight of Iraqi Christians was “clearly worse” after the U.S.-forced regime than before it. “There’s no comparison between Iraq now and then,” he said. “Things are the most difficult they have ever been for Christians. Probably ever in history. [Iraqi Christians have] never known it like now.”

Conditions have only worsened in the fourteen years since. Some Christians left Iraq to avoid martyrdom or forced conversion. Some were robbed or exiled. The Islamic State, which grew in the power vacuum left by Hussein’s ouster, targeted Iraqi Christians for genocide. ISIS fighters burned churches, ancient texts, statues, and relics. They razed a sixth-century monastery.

“Our tormentors confiscated our present while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future,” said Rt. Rev. Bashar Warda, archbishop of Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, in 2019. “Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life’s work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years.”

Today, only about 250,000 Christians remain in Iraq. The rest have died or fled the violence and chaos disproportionately unleashed against them.

That ongoing violence and chaos didn’t emerge from thin air. It should go without saying that the Hussein regime was a cruel and tyrannical government which did not deserve power. It should equally go without saying that the Islamic State and other groups persecuting Iraqi Christians bear responsibility for those abuses.

But Al Qaeda, the Islamic State’s precursor, didn’t organize in Iraq until after the U.S. invasion (contrary to the claims of the Bush administration when ginning up American enthusiasm for war). Its emergence and the later development of ISIS were directly connected to U.S.-orchestrated regime change. Iraq is in its present state—and the Iraqi church is in its present state—in no small part because Washington embarked on a needless invasion and occupation which most Americans now recognize was a mistake that didn’t make the United States safer. America recklessly plunged into an indefensible war, and Iraqi Christians have suffered enormously as a result.

The United States can’t undo that suffering now. The Iraqi church may never be restored. Many of these congregations may be permanently dispersed. Some breaks cannot be repaired.

As a Christian, I pray for our Iraqi siblings in Christ and mourn how my country contributed to the destruction of their communities. As an American, I hope my government will never repeat its mistakes in Iraq. Washington must learn from the havoc it has wreaked in the post-9/11 era and adopt a more peaceful and humble approach to foreign policy, no longer imagining we have the ability or prerogative to remake other countries by force. Our handiwork is shoddy. Our record is bloody. The Iraqis Pope Francis visited know it all too well.

Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities, contributing editor at The Week, and columnist at Christianity Today. Her writing has also appeared at CNN, NBC, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Defense One, among other outlets. 

ذا ناشونال انترست”: البابا زار المسيحيين العراقيين ضحايا السياسة الأميركية

الكاتب: بوني كريستيان

المصدر: ذا ناشونال انترست

12 آذار 15:06

إن القرارات المتهورة للغزو وبناء الدولة في البلدان الأخرى تؤدي إلى ضرر أكثر مما تنفع.

البابا يتحدث إلى الحشود في ساحة الكنائس في الموصل.

كتبت بوني كريستيان مقالة في مجلة “ذا ناشونال انترست” الأميركية تناولت فيها زيارة البابا فرنسيس إلى العراق، قالت فيها إن البابا فرنسيس قد أنهى رحلة إلى العراق هذا الأسبوع في أول زيارة بابوية على الإطلاق إلى البلاد، وهي رحلة وصفها الفاتيكان بأنها “فعل حب لهذه الأرض وشعبها ومسيحييها”. أثناء وجوده هناك، أقام فرنسيس القداس في مدن عدة وزار مواقع توراتية مثل نينوى وأور. كما قام بجولة في بقايا الطوائف المسيحية في أحد أقدم بيوت الإيمان المسيحي.

وأضافت: كانت هذه الزيارة البابوية تهدف إلى تشجيع المسيحيين القلائل المتبقين في العراق. كما ينبغي أن يكون مناسبة للتفكير الجاد في الولايات المتحدة، البلد الذي يدين فيه اثنان من كل ثلاثة أشخاص بالمسيحية – وكذلك البلد الذي ساهمت سياسته الخارجية المضللة في القضاء على المسيحية في العراق تقريباً.

عندما غزت الولايات المتحدة العراق قبل ثمانية عشر عاماَ في آذار / مارس 2003، كان المسيحيون يمثلون 6 في المئة من سكان البلاد، وبلغ عددهم حوالى 1.5 مليون نسمة. لا يزال المسيحيون في أكبر طائفة في العراق، الكنيسة الكلدانية، يتكلمون لغة مختلفة من الآرامية، وهي اللغة التي تحدث بها يسوع. لم يكن نظام صدام حسين صديقاً للمسيحية – كان من المعروف أن صدام حسين يضطهد الأقليات الدينية، بمن في ذلك المسيحيون، وألغى رحلة بابوية سابقة – ولكن تم التسامح مع المسيحية بشكل عام، وكان المسيحيون العراقيون يعبدون في تقليد مستمر عمره 2000 عام.

بعد غزو الولايات المتحدة البلاد وإطاحة صدام حسين، ازداد العنف ضد المسيحيين العراقيين مع انتشار الإرهاب في البلاد. قُتل رجال دين بارزون. قُصفت الكنائس. أصبحت العبادة المسيحية خياراً يهدد الحياة. 

وقال القس أندرو وايت، القس الأنغليكاني في بغداد في شهادة له عام 2007 إن “الرجال في رعيتي يُقتلون بشكل رئيسي. البعض مخطوف. قتل البعض. في الأشهر الستة الماضية ساءت الأمور بشكل خاص بالنسبة للمسيحيين. هنا في هذه الكنيسة، تم أخذ جميع قياداتي وقتلهم. لكننا لم نستعد أجسادهم أبداً. هذه واحدة من المشاكل. أقوم بجنازات هنا بانتظام ولكن ليس من السهل الحصول على الجثث”.

وقال وايت في شهادته لشبكة “سي بي إس إن” أنذاك إن محنة المسيحيين العراقيين كانت “أسوأ بشكل واضح” بعد النظام الذي فرضته الولايات المتحدة أكثر من ذي قبل. وقال “لا توجد مقارنة بين العراق بين الآن وأي وقت سابق. الأمور هي أصعب ما واجهه المسيحيون على الإطلاق. ربما من أي وقت مضى في التاريخ. [المسيحيون العراقيون] لم يعرفوا ذلك من قبل”.

لقد ساءت الظروف فقط في الأربعة عشر عاماً منذ 2007. ترك بعض المسيحيين العراق لتجنب الاستشهاد أو التحول القسري. تعرض البعض للسرقة أو النفي. استهدف تنظيم “داعش”، الذي نما في ظل فراغ السلطة الذي خلفه الإطاحة بصدام حسين، المسيحيين العراقيين بهدف الإبادة الجماعية. أحرق مقاتلو “داعش” الكنائس والنصوص القديمة والتماثيل والآثار. دمروا ديراً يعود إلى القرن السادس.

وقال لقس بشار وردة، رئيس أساقفة أربيل في كردستان العراق، في عام 2019: “لقد صادر جلادونا حاضرنا بينما كانوا يسعون إلى محو تاريخنا وتدمير مستقبلنا. إن عشرات الآلاف من المسيحيين ليس لديهم ما يظهرونه في أعمالهم الحياتية، على مدى أجيال من العمل، في الأماكن التي عاشت فيها عائلاتهم، ربما، لآلاف السنين”.

وقالت الكاتبة: اليوم، لا يزال هناك حوالى 250000 مسيحي فقط في العراق. مات الباقون أو فروا من أعمال العنف والفوضى التي اندلعت ضدهم بشكل غير متناسب.

وأضافت أن العنف والفوضى المستمرة لم يأتيا من فراغ. وغني عن البيان أن نظام صدام حسين كان حكومة قاسية ومستبدة لا تستحق السلطة. كما أن “داعش” والجماعات الأخرى التي تضطهد مسيحيي العراق تتحمل المسؤولية عن تلك الانتهاكات.

لكن تنظيم “القاعدة”، سلف “داعش”، لم يتم تنظيمه في العراق إلا بعد الغزو الأميركي (على عكس مزاعم إدارة الرئيس جورج بوش الإبن عندما استقطبت الحماس الأميركي للحرب). كان ظهور “القاعدة” وتطوره اللاحق إلى “داعش” مرتبطين بشكل مباشر بتغيير النظام الذي دبّرته الولايات المتحدة. 

ورأت الكاتبة أن العراق في حالته الحالية – والكنيسة العراقية في حالتها الحالية – في جزء لا يستهان به سببه أن واشنطن شرعت في غزو واحتلال لا داعٍ لهما يدرك معظم الأميركيين الآن أنهما خطأ لم يجعلا الولايات المتحدة أكثر أماناً. غرقت أميركا بتهور في حرب لا يمكن الدفاع عنها، وعانى المسيحيون العراقيون نتيجة لذلك.

وقالت: لا تستطيع الولايات المتحدة التراجع عن تلك المعاناة الآن. الكنيسة العراقية قد لا يتم ترميمها أبداً. قد يكون العديد من هذه التجمعات مشتتة بشكل دائم. لا يمكن إصلاح بعض الكسور.

وختمت الكاتبة بالقول: كمسيحية، أصلي من أجل إخوتنا العراقيين في المسيح ونحزن على مساهمة بلدي في تدمير مجتمعاتهم. كأميركية، أتمنى ألا تكرر حكومتي أخطائها في العراق. يجب أن تتعلم واشنطن من الفوضى التي أحدثتها في حقبة ما بعد 11 أيلول / سبتمبر 2001 وأن تتبنى نهجاً  أكثر سلمية وتواضعاً للسياسة الخارجية، ولم نعد نتخيل أن لدينا القدرة أو الامتياز لإعادة تشكيل دول أخرى بالقوة. خطتنا كانت رديئة. سجلنا كان دموياً. إن العراقيين الذين زارهم البابا فرنسيس يعرفون ذلك جيداً.

نقله إلى العربية بتصرف: هيثم مزاحم

Pope Francis meets Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq – Now what?

By Jim W. Dean, Managing Editor -March 7, 2021

Hayder al-Khoei: Pope Francis is visiting Iraq to meet with Ayatollah  Sistani. Here's why it's a historic trip.

…from PressTV, Tehran

[ Editor’s Note: The Pope and Sistani held an historic meeting between two of the largest religious bodies, the 1.2 billion Catholics and Sistani’s Shia Muslims. Despite Iraq’s Covid issues, the men met without masks, despite the Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq being in isolation due to exposure. Sunni Muslims later joined the talks during the Pope’s three day visit.

The topic, as expected, was peace and secuity, not only worldwide but in Iraq, a country where its once 1.5 million Christian community is estimated to be 250,000 now. And Pope Francis did not shy away from discussing religious persecution with ISIS in the crosshairs.

“We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion,” the Pope said. “Indeed, we are called unambiguously to dispel all misunderstandings. Let us not allow the light of heaven to be overshadowed by the clouds of hatred.”

He specifically singled out the Yazidi community who suffered terribly, with its women kidnapped, sexually abused, and sold openly in ISIS slave markets, all this done under the Saudi Imams having provided cover on the mass rapes of Yazidis by classifying the events as ‘temporary marriages’.

This was an act of terrorism in itself, one which not only the US never objected to, and the Saudi religious community never santioned the perpetrators. The US coalition’s stand down acted as de facto approval, because they wanted to Balkanize Syria.

A day of religious and judicial reckoning is long overdue on this horrible tragedy, with way too many taking the easy route of just looking away. May the Pope’s visit spark a badly needed flame for justice in the region… Jim W. Dean ]

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The Vatican

First published … March 06, 2021

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, has held closed-door talks with Iraq’s prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on the second day of his visit to the Arab country.

The meeting took place at Ayatollah Sistani’s residence in the holy city of Najaf on Saturday morning.

The office of Ayatollah Sistani said in a statement that he highlighted challenges facing mankind and stressed the role of belief in God and commitment to high moral values ​​in overcoming them.

Ayatollah Sistani cited injustice, oppression, poverty, religious persecution, repression of fundamental freedoms, wars, violence, economic siege and displacement of many people in the region, especially the Palestinians in the occupied territories as some of the major problems which afflict the world.

The cleric touched on the role which religious and spiritual leaders can play in tackling some of these problems. Ayatollah Sistani said religious leaders have to encourage parties invovled in conflicts, particularly the world powers, to give primacy to rationality over confrontation.

He also stressed the importance of efforts to strengthen peaceful coexistence and solidarity based on mutual respect among the followers of different religions and intellectual groups.

Ayatollah Sistani emphasized that the Christian citizens of Iraq, like all other Iraqis, should live in security and peace and enjoy their fundamental rights.

He referred to the role played by the religious authority in protecting Christians and all those who have suffered from the criminal acts of terrorists over the past years. After the one-hour meeting, Pope Francis travelled to the Iraqi city of Ur, which is believed to be the birthplace of Prophet Abraham (Peace be upon him).

The pontiff arrived in Iraq on Friday for a three-day trip amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to Ayatollah Sistani, Pope Francis has so far met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and President Barham Salih.

Iraq’s Christian community has seen its numbers drop from nearly 1.5 million to about 250,000, less than 1% of the population over the last two decades. Iraqi Christians fled the country to escape the chaos and violence that ensued after the US invasion of the country in 2003.

Tens of thousands were also displaced when the Daesh terrorist group overran vast swathes in northern Iraq in 2014, targeting various ethnic and religious groups of the country.

The Takfiri terrorist group was vanquished in December 2017 after a three-year anti-terror military campaign with the crucial support of neighboring Iran. Daesh’s remnants, though, keep staging sporadic attacks across Iraq, attempting to regroup and unleash a new reign of terror.

The terrorist group has intensified its deadly attacks in Iraq since January 2020, when the US assassinated legendary anti-terror Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis near Baghdad airport.

Saraya Awliya al-Dam group, part of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units better known as Hash al-Sha’ab, announced in a statement that it had stopped all its anti-terror operations during the pope’s visit and out of respect for Ayatollah Sistani.

The statement also condemned the assassination of al-Muhandis and General Soleimani who was targeted during an official visit to Iraq.

“We, Arabs, warmly receive our guests. Unlike the United States which betrayed the official guest of Iraq and warrior of Islam, General Soleimani, we will never follow such an approach,” the statement said.

Saraya Awliya al-Dam group also published a poster, featuring General Soleimani’s severed hand after the US drone airstrike and the Arabic words, “Does the Pope know this is the hand that brought the ringing of bells back to churches.”

Ahead of the visit, infectious disease experts had expressed concern about Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq, given a sharp rise in coronavirus infections there, a fragile health care system and the unavoidable likelihood that some people would crowd to see him.

Health experts say from a purely epidemiological standpoint, as well as the public health message it sends, the papal trip to Iraq amid a global pandemic is not wise.

Their concerns were reinforced with the news last week that the Vatican ambassador to Iraq, the main point person for the trip who would have escorted Francis to all his appointments, had tested positive for COVID-19 and was self-isolating.

BIOGRAPHYJim W. Dean, Managing EditorManaging EditorJim W. Dean is Managing Editor of Veterans Today involved in operations, development, and writing, plus an active schedule of TV and radio interviews. Read Full Complete Bio >>>

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