The voice at the other end of the phone line from Beirut suddenly became nervous. "No, no, no, please!" the panicking nun said. "You cannot mention my real name, you understand, what we are doing is illegal."
This is why I call her Sister Mary. Sister Mary does not launder money nor trade drugs. Instead, she leads an association that assists clandestine Christian Iraqi refugees whose plight leads them to travel to Lebanon by foot.
She anticipated more refugees after the church massacre last October 31, a dark day for Iraq's Christian community, though the incident received little attention from international media and policymakers. A terrorist group took the Lady of Deliverance church in Bagdad by siege, holding the congregation hostage and killing 46 Chaldean worshipers, including two priests celebrating mass, and wounding some 67. This was not the first act of violence against Iraq’s dwindling Christian community, but it was by far the most horrific. And it was not the last act of violence targeting the Christians of the Middle East.
After surviving millennia of religious and cultural persecutions in its own cradle, Christianity in the Middle East, could face demise at the hands of this Christian West. In fact, political alliances sought by Western states and, most importantly, by the United States leverage existential threats against the remaining Christian minorities in the Middle East. Rescue is not high on the agenda.
Last Thursday's bombing was only part of the latest in a a wave of targeting Iraqi Christians. Throughout the Iraq War, they have been targeted. This latest wave began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad -- as services were taking place, the Church was seized. Approximatley 70 people died, approximately 70 were injured. The Toledo Blade's editorial board offers, "The attacks have been intense in recent months. They made Iraqi Christians’ observance of Christmas dangerous and thus restrained. With U.S. withdrawal from Iraq scheduled for this year, it might be time for President Obama to consider a program that would admit Iraqi Christians to the United States." Mark Seddon (Independent of London) observes:
Now, Iraq's remaining Christians want an autonomous Christian province in their ancient Ninevah Plains homeland in northern Iraq. While Britain or the US may not help their cause, for obvious reasons, the UN, EU and Commonwealth could add their not inconsiderable weight. President Talabani of Iraq declared in November that he had "no objection to a Christian province in Iraq". One Assyrian exile in Britain, however, told me, "They keep talking, but nothing happens."
There is a widespread view among the Iraqi Christian diaspora that their government is simply allowing what some now see as an inevitable and unstoppable exodus of one of the world's most ancient civilisations.
Jalal Talabani is an expert at doing nothing (other than raising hopes). Since 2003, there has been the promise that the issue of Kirkuk would be settled. The 2005 Constitution even mandated a referendum be held in 2007. This was part of the 2007 White House benchmarks that Nouri al-Maliki signed off on. And yet the census never took place and the referendum took place and the oil-rich Kirkuk remains a sticky point. Point? The idea that Iraqi Christians will end up with a province is unlikely. They number less than 1/25 of the country's population and Nouri's not going to let it happen. You already have Basra wanting to set up their own rule (similar to the KRG), you've got the unsettled issue of Kirkuk and Nouri's going to okay land (forget an entire province) being handed over to Iraqi Christians? It seems highly unlikely. January 8th, there's going to be a summit of religious leaders in Copenhagen, gathered to address the issue of Iraqi Christians. Currently, not much is expected from the gathering. If they come out of it insisting that a province being handed over to Iraqi Christians is the answer, it will most likely indicate that they're not very serious about the issue.
They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)
Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4433 (but listed as 4430 by the Defense Dept which hadn't updated at the time). Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4433 still. However, BNO News is reporting that 2 US soldiers were killed this evening "in central Iraq". In other violence . . .
Reuters reports a Mosul car bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 bystander, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one person and Judge Hardan Khalaf was wounded when assailants bombed his Balad home.
Reuters reports that a Baghdad drive-by involving several vehicles "shot and killed three police officers, an army officer and a local government worker," and an attack on a Falluja police checkpoint left 1 police officer dead and three injured. Reuters reports that police Lt Col Ihsan Fadhel was shot dead in Baghdad yesterday. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) adds that "gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying two members of the Shaheed al-Mihrab Shiite institution in easter Baghdad, killing one person and wounding another, an Iraqi interior ministry official told CNN."
Reuters reports 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk.
New content at Third:
Tax dodgers: make firms pay up
Protesters will take to the streets across Britain this Saturday 18 December to step up the pressure on companies that have used legal scams to avoid paying billions of pounds in tax.
This is the latest in a series of actions targeting companies such as Vodafone, Topshop and Boots.
Their legal tax dodging shows that the money’s there to pay for jobs and services that are threatened by government cuts.
The UK Uncut group has called many of the protests and other campaigns, including Right to Work, have taken up the cry.
Demonstrations forced shops to close across Britain last Saturday. In Manchester, around 100 demonstrators shut down four shops—two Vodafones, a Topshop and Topman.
People chanted, “Vodafone shame on you, we pay taxes why don’t you?”
The police response was heavy—they kettled a group of demonstrators for around an hour.
But this has not deterred campaigners and they will be back this Saturday.
Activists in Southampton, Sheffield, London, Glasgow, Dundee, Belfast, Grantham, Swansea, Brighton and Middlesbrough—to name just a few—will also hold protests.
The scale of the anger shows the huge support for action against the rich.
Everyone should go along to their local protest this Saturday—and if there isn’t one, set one up.
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and the war drags on
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