Brussels, Belgium - Chaldeans were outraged over the European Union's Slovenian presidency rejection of the German asylum proposal. The proposal offered asylum seekers from Iraqi’s Christian community special status due to the organized and systematic genocide in Iraq.
“The EU President is a coward and refused to tell the truth of what is occurring. No one is blind to the fact that Christian minorities are being targeted. They are afraid to say the truth, so as to not offend Muslims. Where are the moderate Muslims to condemn such attacks. Why don’t they tell their followers to turn over evidence and stop harboring these thugs by their silence,” says Hamsa Mansour.
Nearly 4,000 Chaldeans marched into the streets to protest on Friday in Luxembourg. “You see how Christians protest? We are peaceful. Because of our peace, our faith in Jesus, and that we do not believe in war or converting or conquering by the sword we are attacked and killed,” adds Mansour. The demonstration in Brussels on Saturday brought protestors from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.
The peaceful march ran through the heart of Brussels' EU headquarter. The group wanted a fair and public airing of their grievance against the violence perpetrated against Iraqi Christians.
The Associated Press reports that the demonstration was aimed at drawing attention to attacks on Christians in Iraq. Fikri Aygur, vice chairman of the European Syriac Union, organizers of the march said, "We wanted to call on the US, the EU and the UN to find a solution for the Christians.” The march was supposed to start in front of the US embassy in Brussels, but police did not allow it because of the large numbers, Aygur added.
Many claim a campaign of genocide is being carried out with indifference to the Iraq and U.S. forces. Iraq's Christian community remain targeted victims at unparalleled rates by insurgents. according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Christians comprise nearly half the refugees fleeing Iraq. A stark figure when taken in contrast that only 3 percent of Iraqi Christians exist in all of Iraq.
Systematic attacks against Iraqi Christians continue in boldness and horrific tragedy. This year alone 10 churches have been bombed, numerous clergymen and their families have been threatened, kidnapped, and killed. Christian worshippers are besieged and intimidated for practicing their religion.
As a pacifist group, the Iraqi Christians do not have militias or tribes to defend them or protect them from injustices. The Christian groups have depended on the Iraqi police, Coalition forces, or the Iraqi government to defend their homes and children. After the global outrage of the kidnap and slaughter of Mosul’s Archbishop Bulus Faraj Rahhu, Iraq’s Prime Minister pledged to increase support for Christians. Some say a sign that the Iraqi government is aware of the campaign targeting Christians, but doing little to stop the genocide.
Orchestrated attacks against the community have been quite obvious since mid 2004. During that time five Baghdad churches were destroyed within minutes of one another. Al-Qaeda in Iraq took responsibility for the bombings claming in was punishment for foreign Christian invaders. The attacks on Christian landmarks, buildings, homes, and people have increased in frequency throughout the years.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s main goal is to establish an Islamic state in Iraq and impose strict sharia law. The terrorist group would pass out fliers and hang signs demanding Christians convert, conform, or be executed. Muslim neighbors with differing views were forced to compel their Christian neighbors to convert or they would be considered Christian sympathizers and face similar harsh treatments. Both Sunni and Shi'ite sects called for Christians to convert to Islam or leave Iraq.
Christian families began fleeing in large numbers as police and government officials looked the other way, while posters were nailed to doors and taped to street signs and poles.
Joining the campaign to root out Christians from Iraq was Iranian supported Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Imam of the Al-Mahdi Army. The religious army was vicious in their attacks against Christians as they drove people from their homes, bombed Christian owned business, and extorted property from the oppressed community. Any Christian wishing to stay in their homes were forced to protection tax. Christian women were forced to veil their faces or beaten. Many have been kidnapped, raped, and taken by the army.
Church after church were fired upon with gunshots, bombed, or set on fire. Christian men, women, and children have been killed indiscriminately. The insurgent intimidation drove Christians out of their homes. The vacated home was taken over by terrorist sympathizers, keeping the Christian family from returning.
In Al-Durah terrorists extorted from Christians an average monthly salary in order to remain in their homes. Any Christian caught fleeing had to also pay a fee for leaving.
Afraid of the potential perception among Muslim communities U.S. and E.U. ignore the challenges. However, French and German officials have taken up the case of Christian refugees. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed last month that France will give refuge to nearly 500 Iraqi Chaldean Christians. Kouchner said on March 19 that he hoped the Iraqis would be in France within weeks.
Chaldean community leader, Mar Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, told "Le Figaro" that visas for Christians were not a solution, the French daily reported on April 14. "What is needed is to work for peace in Iraq, rather than providing places for Christians so that they can go begging in Europe," Delly said.
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble pledged last week that his country may take up to 30,000 Christian refugees from Iraq. Schaeuble reportedly justified the focus on Christian refugees. The offer of temporary asylum stipulated that those given shelter should return home once ethnic and sectarian tensions die down. It has also been reported that Canada will allows round 2,000 Iraqi refugees in 2008. The U.S. says it will allows 12,000 Iraqi refugees by September 30.
The debate over Iraq’s indigenous Christian community continues. Some contend that special treatment may pose a greater risk to those Christians unable to flee the country. Others add that forcing Christians to forfeit their homes and land will galvanize Iraq into a free fall of Islamic fanatics. Iraq's Christians, with the Chaldean sect the largest community, were said to total nearly a million before the US-led invasion in 2003 but the number is now thought to be half that figure.
“All we here is talk from these leaders. Nothing is being done. There is no action,” says a frustrated Mansour. “They delay and delay and thousands are being attacked and driven from their homes into the death of the desert. They say leaving is not possible and staying is not safe. Where do our people go?”
Mansour’s frustration were echoed among the marchers. Their hopes slammed on Friday in Luxembourg when the European Union's Slovenian presidency rejected a German proposal triggering the march. “They have no idea what to do. They just tell you what they will not do. While they reject and do nothing, people’s lives are destroyed, children are killed, and women are being raped. The U.S. and E.U. have a responsibility to solve this problem,” Mansour says.