Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Continued targeting of Iraqi Christians, continued silence

When America intervened to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Christians — mostly Chaldeans and Assyrians — numbered about 1.4 million, or about 3% of the population. Over the last seven years, more than half have fled the country and, as the New York Times reported this week, a wave of targeted killings — including the Oct. 31 slaying of 51 worshipers and two priests during Mass at one of Baghdad's largest churches — has sent many more Christians fleeing. Despite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki promises to increase security, many believe the Christians are being targeted not only by Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has instructed its fighters "to kill Christians wherever they can reach them," but also by complicit elements within the government's security services.
The United States, meanwhile, does nothing — as it did nothing four years ago, when Father Boulos Iskander was kidnapped, beheaded and dismembered; or three years ago, when Father Ragheed Ganni was shot dead at the altar of this church; or two years ago, when Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was kidnapped and murdered; as it has done nothing about all the church bombings and assassinations of lay Christians that have become commonplace over the last seven years.

The above is from Tim Rutten's "Iraq, the Middle East and intolerance toward Christians" (Los Angeles Times) and "the United States [. . .] doe nothing." For weeks and weeks, we've noted Barack needs to address this issue. The response to noting that was for Sammy Power's friend to write a piece attacking Hillary for her silence. But Hillary already had a press conference scheduled at the State Dept to discuss religious freedom -- and she noted the targeting of Iraqi Christians in that press conference.

Barack's not spoken a word. Maybe he doesn't want to win re-election in 2012? Great, maybe he'll step aside and let a real Democrat run. But if you've disappointed your base, and you'd already splintered the Democratic Party, you need to grasp how you appear to the voters up for grab. The press popularly refers to them as "independent" voters when the reality is that modern-day campaigns spend forever targeting swing voters. If you're the president who never called out the slaughter of Iraqi Christians, especially as Christmas approaches, lots of luck convincing swing voters that you care.

Barack's a stubborn little child, far too immature to be president. As Tina Brown noted after the mid-terms, just get your butt into a church already to end the rumors. But he didn't and he wouldn't. By the same token, he's remained silent about the murders of Iraqi Christians. He can't blame anyone but himself for perpetuating myths that he's 'different' or 'estranged' from the mainstream of the country. The perception has been that he's repeatedly lectured -- both in this country and overseas -- about Muslim issues. When that is the perception -- and politics is all about perception -- you need to address it. If you don't, that's on you. It's not on your opponent, it's not on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh or anyone else. Barack may or may not create his own problems; however, once they're known (and showing up in polling) he does nothing to address them.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom issued the following statement:

12/14/2010: USCIRF Urges Upgrading Security in Iraq for Christians and Other Imperiled Religious Communities
For Immediate Release
December 14, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC - In advance of the December 15 UN Security Council meeting on Iraq, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today urged the U.S. government to redouble its efforts, and use the international forum as an opportunity, to address the grave situation facing that country’s Christians and other imperiled religious minorities.

The Security Council meeting is slated to address the progress in Iraq to date. The recent upsurge in attacks against Christians makes clear, however, that the country’s most vulnerable religious minorities remain in peril. The smallest Iraqi religious groups—including ChaldoAssyrian, Syriac, and other Christians; Sabean Mandaeans; and Yazidis—face targeted violence, including murders and attacks on their places of worship and religious leaders, intimidation, and forced displacement; they also experience discrimination, marginalization, and neglect. As a result, these ancient communities’ very existence in the country is now threatened. The loss of the diversity and human capital these groups represent would be a terrible blow to Iraq’s future as a secure, stable, and pluralistic democracy.

This is a particularly important period in Iraq, with a new government being formed and the U.S. military presence drawing down. USCIRF recommends that the U.S. government take the following steps to protect these vulnerable communities:

• Provide Protection: In consultation with the Christian and other minority religious communities’ political and civic representatives, identify the places throughout Iraq where these targeted minorities worship, congregate, and live, and work with the Iraqi government to assess security needs and develop and implement a comprehensive and effective plan for dedicated Iraqi military protection of these sites and areas; as this process moves forward, periodically inform Congress on progress.

• Promote Representative Community Policing: Work with the Iraqi government and the Christians’ and other smallest minorities’ political and civic representatives to establish, fund, train, and deploy representative local police units to provide additional protection in areas where these communities are concentrated.

• Prioritize Development Assistance for Minority Areas: Ensure that U.S. development assistance prioritizes areas where these vulnerable communities are concentrated, including the Nineveh Plains area, and that the use of such funding is determined in consultation with the political and civic leaders of the communities themselves.

On December 4, in the wake of the recent spate of attacks, 16 Iraqi Christian parties and organizations issued a compelling joint call for greater protection. USCIRF urges both the U.S. and Iraqi governments to heed this call and work with these leaders, as well as the leaders of the other small endangered groups in Iraq, on implementing these and other measures to protect and assist these communities before it is too late.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, contact Tom Carter, Communications Director at tcarter@uscirf.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or (202) 523-3257.

Today the European Parliament held a briefing on the issue of Chrisians in the Middle East. Yet Barack remains silent -- in a country where identification is often the strongest motivator when it comes to voting. Kirsty Buchanan (UK's Express) reports:

THE congregation receives death threats, there are 35 soldiers manning the perimeter fence and the vicar ­travels to work with 12 bodyguards in three armoured vehicles. Welcome to Christian worship, Baghdad-style.
In the last year St George’s in Iraq’s capital has been bombed four times but the “very ugly and very solid” church is still standing.

The following community sites updated last night and this morning:

And from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee's video page, we'll note Senator Max Baucus on the need to extend unemployment insurance.

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