This weekend’s hostage crisis at a Catholic Church in Baghdad, in which 58 are said to have been killed, highlights the long and continuing plight of Iraq’s minority communities, as well as the ever-present fragility of the new Iraqi state.
Iraq is easily stereotyped as an Arab and Muslim state, yet the reality is much different. Numerous minority communities make up Iraq’s diverse and greatly historical population. Although thousands of years have come and gone since Iraq, the cradle of civilizations established itself on the map, it has nevertheless remained a gathering place for a number of ancient communities. One such community is that of the Assyrians, whose roots in Iraq indeed go back thousands of years.
Since the sectarian war gained fierce momentum in 2006, minority communities have been a large target for insurgents and militias, and their numbers in Iraq have been steadily deteriorating, either through the cleansing or displacement of these Iraqis from prominent neighborhoods. Many from Iraq’s minority communities are now refugees in the United States.
The numbers differ, but it is thought that around a 500,000 Iraqi christians have fled the country since the invasion. When you figure that during Saddam’s time there were as many as 1.4 million Christians in the country, this is a massive exodus.
For an interesting look at Iraq’s Christian community check out the documentary The Vicar of Baghdad – Watch Here