Iraq: Murder In A Cathedral
11 November, 2010
The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) condemns the massacre of 44 Christian worshippers and two priests at the Sayidat al-Nejat cathedral in Baghdad on the 31st of October 2010. An al-Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, has claimed responsibility for the massacre. It is allegedly part of the attempt to drive out Christians from Iraq.
The massacre reveals how bloody, brutal and barbaric al-Qaeda and its affiliates can be. It is a manifestation of the vile hatred and vicious bigotry that characterise the actions of this terrorist group.
Al-Qaeda demeans Islam through its senseless, mindless violence. Its massacre of Christians worshipping in a cathedral violates every tenet of Islam--- its acceptance of the right of people to worship in a manner of their choosing; its respect for the sanctity of all places of worship; its observance of the bond it shares with Christians as people of the book and as co-religionists within the Abrahamic tradition; and most of all, its commitment to our common humanity.
The Christians of Iraq who before the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 by the United States and Britain constituted three percent of the population, are an ancient community which has lived in peace and harmony with the Muslim majority for centuries. They have contributed immensely to the advancement of Iraqi society. Before the invasion, there was hardly any political pressure upon Iraqi Christians. Today, many of them are leaving the land of their forefathers out of fear and anxiety.
In this regard, it should be emphasised that before occupation, there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq. Religious bigotry had no adherents in Iraqi society under Saddam Hussein. Atavistic notions of religious exclusiveness and doctrinal purity had no followers.
These destructive religious sentiments have come to the fore as a consequence of the Anglo-American occupation. At one level, al-Qaeda sees itself, and is perceived by a small segment of Iraqi society, as a resistance movement fighting the unjust occupation of the Iraqi nation. At another level, it has fashioned itself as a group protecting Muslims from the alleged onslaught of Christian evangelists determined to convert Muslims to Christianity.
It is true that in the wake of occupation, Christian Right evangelism, sometimes allied to Christian Zionism, has become active and aggressive in various parts of Iraq. Though they have had very little success in converting Muslims, their belligerent thrust has created a great deal of uneasiness within the country’s deeply rooted Christian community. These ancient Christians sometimes refer disparagingly to these Christian Right elements as the “new” Christians. Needless to say, the “new” Christians-- like the al-Qaeda bigots--- are driving a wedge between the Muslims and Christians of Iraq and have inflicted massive damage upon the nation’s social fabric.
The time has come for Muslims and Christians who value harmony and amity to join hands and hearts and fight these divisive and destructive forces within both our religious communities. For a start, let us express our solidarity with the Christians of Iraq who have displayed such restraint and compassion despite their pain and anguish.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
11 November 2010.