A committee of the Canadian parliament studying the persecution of religious minorities heard hair-raising testimony about the treatment of Christians at the hands of Muslims in Iraq. Speaking before the human rights committee on August 17, Filham Isaac of the Nineveh Advocacy Committee testified that since war began in Iraq in 2003, approximately 12 Christian children, some as young as 10, have been abducted and murdered, then crucified near their homes in an effort to torment their parents and warn the Christian community at large. In one case, an infant was kidnapped and then decapitated. The tiny corpse was burned and left on his mother’s doorstep, the committee heard.
Isaac also spoke of the many Iraqi Christian churches bombed and burned, clergy murdered, and Christian women raped or doused with disfiguring acid. On August 1, 2004, there were six coordinated bombings of Christian churches on the same day. Subsequent fatal attacks included one on Christmas Day, 2010. Since 2003, there have been at least 45 church bombings in Iraq.
These assaults, he asserted, are part of a systemic effort to purge Iraq of non-Muslims. This was largely accomplished in the 1950s in the case of Iraq’s millennial Jewish population, who had resided there since the time of the Patriarch Abraham. Chaldean and Assyrian (also known as Chaldo-Assyrian) Christians were once the largest Christian minority in Iraq and include members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Church of the East. The Chaldeans are not ethnically Arab, being descended from the ancient Mesopotamians who adopted Christianity long before Muhammed and the Islamic religion emerged from the wastes of Arabia.
In a report by the Ottawa Citizen, Isaac said that some 300,000 Chaldeans are currently refugees, which is equal to approximately 1 in 3 Chaldeans overall. "It's at a crisis point," said Zaya Oshana of the Nineveh Advocacy Committee, "Christians will be completely annihilated," said Oshana, according to the paper.
Christian Iraqis are hoping to settle in the Nineveh Plains, in northwest Iraq, so as to enjoy some independence and form their own government. Nineveh is the site of what was once one of the greatest cities of the ancient world, which still has fertile soil and may have significant petroleum deposits. There is some support outside of Iraq for the formation of a state in northwest Iraq. Media reports indicate that 700 police officers have begun training to protect the Christians in Iraq. However, at least another 4,000 would be needed to secure the region and establish checkpoints on all highways and roads leading into the vulnerable villages.
The Nineveh Advocacy Committee is made up of four Chaldo-Assyrian organizations in Canada: one, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, which has garnered more votes than any other Iraqi political party in Ontario during the 2005 Iraqi federal election; two, the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union of Canada; three, the Assyrian Aid Society of Canada; and finally, the Assyrian Society of Canada.
The religious minorities of Iraq make up approximately 5% of the general population of approximately 31 million. They are predominantly Christian, but there are also followers of the Yazidi and Mandean faiths.