Category : Iraq

(NYRB) Undefeated, ISIS Is Back in Iraq

Now, more than four years after the black-clad men conquered Mosul, a major city in northern Iraq, a third of the country remains pulverized, both physically and socially. Overlaid across territory that has been reclaimed from the Islamic State is a patchwork of various sectarian militias that now claim fiefdom. Thousands of families with alleged links to ISIS are exiled, their birthrights reduced to being names on militias’ wanted lists, their dignity violated in irreversible ways. Rather than address this deep residue of fears and feelings of injustice felt by many, Iraq has foolishly declared the Islamic State defeated, as though its threat were now confined to the country’s past. But the signs of the ISIS’ resurgence are troubling, and the sense of grievance that fired it in the first place remains just as palpable—and just as unresolved.

The intelligence that my colleagues and I in the Kurdistan Region Security Council have collected is disturbing. Over the past fifteen months, hundreds of attacks linked to the group took place in areas that were supposed to have been freed from ISIS. Pushed out of Mosul, Islamic State fighters have regrouped in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin, and parts of Anbar—territory they know well. From the city of Hawija to the westernmost town of Tal Afar, these guerrillas are mounting ambushes against Iraqi security forces in attacks the scale of which has not been seen in years.

What makes these fighters so much more of a threat now is their ability to make good on their promise to hunt down those they accuse of betraying them. In a night raid last October, after security forces had retreated to nearby bases, Islamic State assassins dragged a village chief from his home, and summoned locals to a public place, where they executed him. Even in parts of Mosul itself, reconquered in 2017 by government forces after a long and costly campaign, the ominous black-and-white ISIS flag has flown again in recent months, causing panic and fear in village after village. Credible threats have also forced the Iraqi authorities to relocate prisoners to prevent their escape in the event of a brazen attack like the prison breakouts the group has pulled off in the past.

The reasons for the return of ISIS are obvious. For years, the conventional approach to stopping the group has depended on airstrikes and local proxy forces; stripping away territory and revenues from ISIS has been the marker of success. But this is a gross misunderstanding of the group. The original synergy between former Iraqi officers and jihadists that created al-Qaeda in Iraq led to a calculating organization capable of learning from its mistakes and adjusting accordingly.

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Posted in Iraq, Terrorism

(NYT) Described as Defeated, Islamic State Punches Back With Guerrilla Tactics

For three years, terrorists controlled a huge stretch of territory in Iraq and Syria. They ran their own state, collecting tens of millions of dollars in taxes and using the proceeds to fix potholes, issue birth certificates, finance attacks and recruit followers from around the world.

All but 1 percent of that territory is now gone, which has prompted the White House to describe the Islamic State as “wiped out,” “absolutely obliterated” and “in its final throes.” But to suggest that ISIS was defeated, as President Trump did when he announced plans to pull out American troops from Syria, is to ignore the lessons of recent history.

The group has been declared vanquished before, only to prove politicians wrong and to rise stronger than before.

The attack last week by a suicide bomber outside a shawarma restaurant in the Syrian city of Manbij, which killed at least 15 people including four Americans, is one example of how the group still remains a serious, violent threat.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Syria, Terrorism, Violence

([London] Times) Iraq’s battered Mosul clears rubble to greet first Christian back from Isis exile

For as long as he can remember, every Christmas Eve Majdi Hamid Majid would go to the nearby Clock Church in Mosul with hundreds of other local families where they would light candles and sing carols and then eat sugary biscuits. “It was beautiful,” he said.

This year the former stonemason will sit alone on a makeshift bed of planks in the ruins of his house, sip a Pepsi and smoke a cigarette under the postcard of the Virgin Mary he has stuck on the wall.

Majdi, 43, is the first Christian to move back to the Old City since Isis took it over four years ago, driving out his family and about 10,000 more from one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East.

The Iraqi city was recaptured almost 18 months ago after a massive battle that left its ancient heart on the west bank of the Tigris a nightmarish vision of bombed-out buildings, twisted metal and staircases to nowhere. Last week a few bulldozers were pushing stones back and forth, making little difference to what the UN describes as 10m tons of rubble that will take 10 years to clear.

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Posted in Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(NYT) Bakers From Baghdad, Who Fled Violence Against Christians, Pursue a Sweet Dream

The marriage of Nael and Manar al-Najjar was forged in sugar.

Mr. Najjar grew up working in his family’s Baghdad sweet shop. When he proposed, three months after meeting his future wife at a family wedding, he traveled six hours to her hometown, carrying 15 boxes of confections: baklava, kenafeh and Turkish delights.

The couple settled in Baghdad, opened a bakery and started a family. As Catholics, though, they faced discrimination and threats of violence. When those threats turned deadly, they fled and sought asylum in America.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Iraq, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(CC) Bobby Ross Jr–Wissam Al-Aethawi’s long road from Baghdad

The story of Al-Aethawi’s unlikely journey from Baghdad to Dearborn goes back to 1979.

That was the year Saddam Hussein rose to power — and the year Al-Aethawi was born to a poor family who lived in a mud house with steel sheets as the roof. In the winter, rain dripped on the young boy, his sisters and parents as they slept.

Each Friday, Al-Aethawi went to a neighborhood mosque to pray.

But he never felt comfortable with a religion he believed called him to hate people he didn’t know and offered no hope after his 4-year-old sister, Amina, died of food poisoning in 1996.

Wissam Al-Aethawi, right, enjoys fellowship with Steve Spiceland after preaching at the Sunset Church of Christ in Taylor, Mich. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)References to Bible verses in American novels that Al-Aethawi read piqued his curiosity, as did Tom Cruise picking up a Gideon Bible and reading from Job 3:14 in the movie “Mission: Impossible.”

At the massive Al-Mutanabbi flea market in Baghdad in 1997, Al-Aethawi — then an engineering student at the University of Baghdad — bought the Gospel of John….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Iraq, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(NYT) The ISIS Files–We unearthed thousands of internal documents that help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power so long

The commander who strode in sat facing the room, his leg splayed out so that everyone could see the pistol holstered to his thigh. For a moment, the only sounds were the hurried prayers of the civil servants mumbling under their breath.

Their fears proved unfounded. Though he spoke in a menacing tone, the commander had a surprisingly tame request: Resume your jobs immediately, he told them. A sign-in sheet would be placed at the entrance to each department. Those who failed to show up would be punished.

Meetings like this one occurred throughout the territory controlled by the Islamic State in 2014. Soon municipal employees were back fixing potholes, painting crosswalks, repairing power lines and overseeing payroll.

“We had no choice but to go back to work,” said Mr. Hamoud. “We did the same job as before. Except we were now serving a terrorist group.”

The disheveled fighters who burst out of the desert more than three years ago founded a state that was acknowledged by no one except themselves. And yet for nearly three years, the Islamic State controlled a stretch of land that at one point was the size of Britain, with a population estimated at 12 million people. At its peak, it included a 100-mile coastline in Libya, a section of Nigeria’s lawless forests and a city in the Philippines, as well as colonies in at least 13 other countries. By far the largest city under their rule was Mosul.

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Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism

(WSJ) Nina Shea–How to Help Iraq’s Religious Minorities

As Islamic State heads toward defeat in Iraq, Christian and Yazidi survivors of genocide should be returning to their hometowns in Nineveh province. Instead, these fragile minority communities mostly remain stranded at displacement shelters in Kurdistan without the means to rebuild their villages. Many are fleeing Iraq, and the country now risks losing these religious minorities entirely. The Trump administration is making the situation worse by continuing Obama policies that effectively exclude these non-Muslims from U.S. aid in Iraq.

Today there are fewer than 250,000 Christians in Iraq, according to the State Department, down from as many as 1.4 million before the 2003 invasion. These Christians speak Aramaic, like Jesus of Nazareth, and trace their faith to Thomas the Apostle, whose relics were spirited from Nineveh by Orthodox monks as ISIS approached. The Iraqi Jewish community, its roots in the Babylonian exile, was forced out over the past 70 years; fewer than 10 Jewish families remain in Baghdad. Yazidis—who have lived near the Sinjar Mountains—number about 400,000. Nadia Murad, the voice for thousands of Yazidis enslaved by ISIS, warned a congressional panel earlier this year that her people could soon disappear because of emigration. This would signal the end of Iraq’s indigenous non-Muslim communities.

Since fiscal 2014, the U.S. has provided $1.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Iraq, but very little of it has reached the beleaguered Christian and Yazidi communities. This is because the Obama administration decided to channel most of it through United Nations refugee and development agencies, a practice the new administration has continued. There is no protection for religious minorities in the U.N.’s overwhelmingly Muslim camps, and Christians and Yazidis are terrified of entering them. The U.N. doesn’t operate camps in Iraq for displaced Christians, and the international body has enough resources to shelter only half the Yazidis who congregate around Dohuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan. U.N. programs also exclude the local churches that struggle to care for these minorities, forcing them to raise aid on a piecemeal and insecure basis from other sources.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Iraq, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

([London] Times) German girl Linda Wenzel with Isis snipers ‘must face justice in Iraq’

A German teenager found with Islamic State snipers in Mosul must be put on trial, according to a Yazidi MP who is the most prominent spokesperson for her beleaguered people.

Linda Wenzel, 16, must be properly investigated before being allowed to return to Germany, Vian Dakhil said. Ms Dakhil sits in the Iraqi parliament and came to prominence with a tearful appeal for help when Isis was massacring thousands of Yazidis in 2014.

“A sniper #isis was captured in #Mosul, she is ‘German girl’,” Ms Dakhil tweeted. “The mother of the #sniper girl was found in #Germany and she didn’t deny that she is her daughter.”

Ms Dakhil later said that Linda’s mother, Katharina, had confirmed that the girl pulled from a tunnel in the bomb-ravaged Old City area of Mosul was her daughter.

“She is now being investigated by the security forces,” Ms Dakhil told The Times. “We will demand that the government does not hand her over to her country. She came to Iraq and joined a terrorist group and she has to be punished according to Iraqi law here.”

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Posted in Children, Germany, Iraq, Marriage & Family, Teens / Youth, Terrorism

(BBC) Why are Iraqi Christians facing deportation from US?

More than 100 Iraqi Christians in Michigan are fighting deportation after being arrested in an immigration crackdown ordered by the Trump administration.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Iraq, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Christian Today) 1.5 million Christians have fled Iraq in an exodus that could lead to the extinction of the faith in the land

As many as 1.5 million Christians have fled Iraq since the rise of Islamic State, according to an Iraqi MP.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Christian lawyer Josef Sleve said that just 14 years ago, there had been nearly two milliion Christians in Iraq.

There are now between 500,000 and 850,000.

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Posted in Iraq, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(AJ) Iraqi refugee becomes Anglican priest

Fr. Ayoob Shawkat Adwar, a priest in the Chaldean Catholic Church, was received as an Anglican priest at a ceremony in Surrey, B.C. March 26.

The event was a “small but significant piece of history,” says Archdeacon Stephen Rowe, rector of the Anglican Parish of the Church of the Epiphany in Surrey, since he is thought to be the first Chaldean priest in history to have become a member of the Anglican clergy.

Originally from Mosul, Iraq—heartland of the Chaldean church—Adwar was ordained as a Chaldean priest in 2008. His family began to arrive in Canada about five years ago, and Adwar himself followed in 2014, when he was granted refugee status.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Iraq

(NDTV) Iraqi Christians Hold Easter Celebrations At A Church Damaged By ISIS

Hundreds of Iraqi Christians gathered on Sunday in a church damaged by ISIS north of Mosul, celebrating Easter there for the first time since 2014.

“God willing, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ will also mark the return and rising-up of the Christians in Iraq,” said Kyriacos Isho, 75, who was accompanied by his 12 children and grandchildren at Mar Gewargis (St George) Chaldean Catholic church in Tel Esqof.

Tel Esqof, or Bishop’s Hill in Arabic, did not sustain the same amount of damage as other Christian towns overrun by the terrorists three years ago in the plain of Nineveh.

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Posted in Easter, Iraq, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Terrorism

Christianity is ‘over’ in Iraq, but ‘God is not dead despite terrible persecution,’ says ‘Vicar of Baghdad’

An eminent Anglican priest known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” has just presented two contrasting images of Christianity in Iraq.

First, in a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Canon Andrew White said Christianity is “over” in the region from which the faith originated.

However, on the same day, he posted a message on his Facebook page, saying, “God is not dead … despite the terrible persecution of much of the Church today in Iraq and the Middle East.”

White went on to say that God “is alive and doing the greatest things ever. Resurrections, healing and angels are part of daily life. We in the western world just do not know of the real majesty, glory and presence of Jesus.”

Read it all from Christian Today.

Posted in Iraq, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Economist) The Iraqi army is on the brink of defeating ISIS, but rebuilding will be a big challenge

Driving IS out of the city may come to be seen as the straightforward part, however. Judging by what has happened in east Mosul, rebuilding will be a slow process. Three months after their liberation, east Mosulites are getting fed up. They are still without running water, and the only electricity comes from private generators.

“We have security now, but no services at all,” complains Muhammad Ahmed, a pharmacist. “There is no government here.” The provincial governor lives in Erbil, a couple of hours’ drive away, partly along roads ploughed up by IS that show no sign of being repaired. No international agencies are to be seen in the recaptured city, bar a few clinics and some empty school satchels donated by UNICEF. The central government has failed to provide it with an emergency civilian administration, leaving it either to the army, which is otherwise occupied, or to the local government, which barely functions.

Mr Ahmed probably speaks for many when he recalls that in the days immediately after IS took control of Mosul, the jihadists were rather popular. The previous elected authorities had been corrupt and incompetent, and unable to deliver the basics. Electricity, he recalls, was available for just three hours a day. Under the caliphate the lights stayed on, at least until coalition air strikes began and then, shortly before losing control of east Mosul, IS blew up the city’s main power station and its water-pumping station.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq, Politics in General, Terrorism

(CNS) No future for Christians in Mosul, says Iraqi Christian leader

As some residents of the city of Mosul celebrate their new freedom from the Islamic State group, an Iraqi Christian leader who visited the war-torn city said Christian residents are unlikely to return.

“I don’t see a future for Christians in Mosul,” said Father Emanuel Youkhana, a priest, or archimandrite, of the Assyrian Church of the East.

Father Youkhana, who runs Christian Aid Program Northern Iraq, a Christian program for displaced Iraqis around the city of Dohuk, entered Mosul in a military convoy on Jan. 27, the day Iraqi officials raised the national flag over the eastern part of the city. Islamic State seized the city in 2014, causing Christians and other minorities to flee.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Guardian) Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes to stop Iraqi's deportation

The archbishop of Canterbury has intervened in an attempt to prevent an Iraqi Christian who fled Islamic State jihadis from being returned to his home country.

Justin Welby wrote a letter in support of the man ahead of an appeal against his rejected asylum claim, saying he supported his application to remain in the UK.

Last week, a second letter was sent by the archbishop’s interfaith adviser, Mark Poulson, “unequivocally endors[ing]” an appeal for asylum by the man, who met him and the archbishop while working as a volunteer.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Foreign Relations, Iraq, Law & Legal Issues, Middle East, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Reuters) ISIS gone, Mosul district residents adjust to new life

Until three weeks ago, many of Abu Osama’s customers were Islamic State militants who brought their wives and children to his pharmacy on the eastern edge of Mosul for injections and treatment.

Now, most of them are Iraqi security forces who recaptured the Gogjali neighborhood earlier this month and are pushing further into the city, which has been under Islamic State control for more than two years.

As the militants retreat, civilians are adjusting to a new reality in their wake and a clearer picture is emerging of what they did to survive the punishments and deprivation of Islamic State rule.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Wa Po) ISIS has been a catastrophe for Sunnis in Iraq and Syria

The Islamic State is being crushed, its fighters are in retreat and the caliphate it sought to build in the image of a bygone glory is crumbling.

The biggest losers, however, are not the militants, who will fulfill their dreams of death or slink into the desert to regroup, but the millions of ordinary Sunnis whose lives have been ravaged by their murderous rampage.

No religious or ethnic group was left unscathed by the Islamic State’s sweep through Iraq and Syria. Shiites, Kurds, Christians and the tiny Yazidi minority have all been victims of a campaign of atrocities, and they now are fighting and dying in the battles to defeat the militants.

But the vast majority of the territory overrun by the Islamic State was historically populated by Sunni Arabs, adherents of the branch of Islam that the group claims to champion and whose interests the militants profess to represent. The vast majority of the 4.2 million Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes by the Islamic State’s war are Sunnis. And as the offensives get underway to capture Mosul, Iraq’s biggest Sunni city, and Raqqa, the group’s self-proclaimed capital in Syria, more Sunni towns and villages are being demolished, and more Sunni livelihoods are being destroyed.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(NR) A Little Perspective on 2016, from a Documentary on Christian Persecution

This year’s presidential election may well be the most divisive in U.S. history, pitting liberals and conservatives against one another perhaps more bitterly than ever before, and the two major-party candidates seem in many ways to reflect cultural ills and political corruption that have been brewing for decades. On both the right and the left, countless citizens appear to believe that one candidate or the other will bring about the “end of America.” Conservatives argue that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton will, among other things, transform the Supreme Court into a progressive super-legislature to impose its anti-democratic will for a generation. Meanwhile, liberals maintain that Republican nominee Donald Trump will deport millions of minorities and exacerbate existing racial tension to the detriment of less-privileged Americans.

It is easy to allow the evident failures of our political system ”” culminating in the simultaneous nomination of perhaps the two most dishonest, corrupt presidential nominees in U.S. history ”” to consume our focus and destroy our confidence in the future of our country. But as these seemingly endless debates absorb our attention and ongoing rancor pollutes our national dialogue, millions of people around the world face genocide, and they fear for their lives and those of their children.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Reuters) Two years of fear: Iraqi Christian widow survives ISIS

An elderly Christian widow who survived two years of Islamic State rule over her northern Iraqi town said the jihadists threatened to kill her, forced her to spit on a crucifix and made her stamp on an image of the Virgin Mary.

Zarifa Badoos Daddo, 77, was reunited with her family on Sunday after Iraqi forces drove Islamic State from Qaraqosh as they advanced on Mosul, the militants’ last major urban bastion in the country. The forces found her sheltering in a house they thought was abandoned or booby-trapped with explosives.

Most residents of Qaraqosh ”“ Iraq’s largest Christian town ”“ had fled toward the country’s autonomous Kurdish region more than two years ago as the jihadists approached, but Daddo stayed on with another elderly woman.

Her relatives had long feared she was dead.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(Wa Po) Iraqi special forces enter Mosul over 2 years after ISIS seized the city

Iraqi commanders on Tuesday said they were fighting inside an industrial district on the outer edge of Mosul, making their first breach into the northern Iraqi city that has been under Islamic State control for more than two years.

Bringing the fight across the city lines does not change the overall challenges facing Iraqi troops trying to oust the militants from their last major stronghold in the country. But it reflects the steady advances by Iraqi soldiers and allied forces ”” backed by U.S. airstrikes ”” since the campaign to recapture Mosul was launched last month.

Soldiers from Iraq’s elite counterterrorism force said they had entered the neighborhood of Gogjali. From the village of Bazwaya, just four miles to the east, jets circled overhead and explosions could be heard from the front lines.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

(FP) For Iraqi Christians, a Bittersweet Homecoming

Christians are finally returning to the Church of the Immaculate Conception. In the courtyard, they find piles of shell casings and mannequin torsos riddled with bullet holes. The Islamic State fighters who held the building until just a few days ago used the space for target practice.

The cavernous interior of the church, the largest in Iraq, is charred and black. The floors are strewn with trash. Islamic State fighters destroyed the crosses and burned any religious books they could find. Now a man is searching through the rubble, salvaging scraps of manuscripts in Aramaic, the ancient language spoken by Jesus.

A small group of priests and local people gathers around the altar, and for the first time in two years, the sound of prayer fills the hall. Gunfire and shelling can still be heard not far away. A man goes up to the darkened altar and kisses it, shaking his head in disbelief at the level of destruction. One of the priests finds a few pieces of communion wafer and wraps them respectfully in paper. “This is Christ’s body, after all,” he says.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) Mindy Belz: Can Iraq’s Christians Finally Go Home?

Mr. Anderson’s organization compiled a 300-page report at the request of the State Department documenting ISIS genocide of Christians in Iraq. Besides the toxic level of displacement, the report contains graphic detail confirming that at least 1,100 Christians have been murdered by Islamic militants in Iraq since 2003, though the number is almost certainly higher now. Yet U.S. officials seem to be ignoring these findings, even though the report pushed Washington to legally declare ISIS’s actions a “genocide.”

Exile is at the heart of the Christian message. The Old Testament Jews wandered in the wilderness and the savior Jesus Christ “had no place to lay his head.” His apostle Paul wrote four of his New Testament epistles from prison. The Christians in Iraq know this is their story, too. Yet being vanquished forever from this heartland is a terrible fate to contemplate.

Noura’s family is hopeful, but they’ve already lost everything””material possessions and friends and family””to ISIS. The tricycle photo is all that remains of Noura’s other life, and she had to download it from Facebook. She told me that “the hardest thing to lose is my memories.” But her future may be threatened too.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Crux) For Iraqi Christians, mix of hope and horror is a daily affair

As the Christian town of Bartella was being liberated from the Islamic State last week, Mona, a Christian student miles from the front line, was hiding under a bed with six other young women.

Sitting on the bed above, inches away, were six ISIS militants, engaged in the terrorist attack on Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk.

Mona’s story highlights the complexities of the situation Christians face in Iraq. On the one hand, long-Christian villages are being liberated. On the other hand, the threats are real, even in a city outside of ISIS control.

After hiding under the bed for three hours, the young Christian women in Kirkuk were able to escape out the back door when five of the six terrorists left, leaving one behind who was wounded. He later blew himself up with a suicide bomb.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Middle East, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(NPR) After ISIS, People From Mosul Fear What May Come Next

He says he expects chaos and violent retribution if ISIS is pushed out of Mosul. He fears that families who lost loved ones to the militants will take revenge not just on those who worked with ISIS, but on their whole families.

“There is no law, in the years to come,” he says. “The government is weak. I don’t trust these guys.”

He regards his life in Mosul as over. He never plans to go back, and says when he sits with his friends from Mosul in the nearby city of Irbil, they do not speak of home.

None of them will return, so reminiscence is painful.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Middle East, Terrorism, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

Nancy Borrett Makes her Third Trip to Iraq–Convicted by Scripture, Compelled by Love

What compels a person to travel halfway across the world to care for refugees in the Kurdistan area of Iraq, or to take stuffed animals, candy and beads to kids in the last free village closest to ISIS-occupied territory? To be sure, Nancy has a global mindset and travel is not new to her. Her daughter, Ally, moved to China after graduating from college to teach English. Fortunately, sons Matt and Jacob and their families live in the U.S. But what’s interesting is that Nancy’s story could be your story, or the story of anyone who opens themselves to a God-driven chain of events and obeys God’s Word .I [Patti Wheat] interviewed Nancy after she returned from her recent trip with Jerry and Stacy Kramer, founders of Love for the Least (L4L).

Read it all (page 5).

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, Christology, Iraq, Middle East, Ministry of the Laity, Missions, Parish Ministry, Theology

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael–Give Christians in Iraq a say in their future

Christians in Iraq should be given independent rule or allowed to join a region of their choice in a post-war settlement, the leader of the country’s largest Church has suggested.

The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I says in a report this week that should Iraq be reclaimed from Islamic State, there should be an interim political settlement allowing Christian villages in the Nineveh Plain to become “self-administrative”.

Many of the Christians who have been forced to flee could return to their homes if Islamic State is defeated, he says.

He calls for a referendum to give Christians a choice on whether they want to be governed from Baghdad, to be part of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan or even place themselves under a “Sunni state”.

Read it all from Christian Today.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(Reuters) ISIS reportedly holding several hundred as human shields in Fallujah, 3,700 flee

ISIS is reported to be holding several hundred families as “human shields” in the Iraqi city of Fallujah while government forces close in, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday, citing witness accounts.

Some 3,700 people have fled Fallujah, west of Baghdad, over the past week since the Iraqi army began its offensive on the city controlled by militant forces, it said.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Terrorism

(WSJ) Iraq Cleric’s Moves Test Political Order

The decision by Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to have his supporters seize and then vacate the parliament building in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone was the act of a man who””at least for now””wants to control rather than destroy the country’s political system.

But this breach has put such a strain on Iraq’s political arrangements, established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to balance the interests of the country’s sects and ethnic groups, that once this crisis plays out, there may be not much of a system left to control.

Mr. Sadr, the scion of a prominent Shiite clerical family who once led an insurgency against U.S. occupation forces and was responsible for unleashing some of the country’s worst sectarian violence, denies that he seeks outright power.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Iraq, Iraq War, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Canon Andrew White–An update from Iraq, Israel and Jordan

With temperatures in the region of 40C/100F, Iraq is in a terrible way, both politically and economically. The parliament has not been meeting, there are violent protests in Baghdad, and the oil revenue is starting to dry up. Despite this, we are still working on the front line. Yesterday, Dr Sarah Ahmed, FRRME’s Director of Operations in the Middle East, gave out 25 kg bags of flour to over 1,000 Iraqi IDP families in Erbil, Northern Iraq.

Read it all and do not miss the pictures.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence