Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Sonja Corbitt

2/25/2010 (4 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Islamic extremists are pushing to eliminate ancient Christian communities in Islamic lands.

Iraqi Christians forced to flee.

Iraqi Christians forced to flee.

Article Highlights

By Sonja Corbitt

Catholic Online (

2/25/2010 (4 years ago)

Published in Middle East

BETHPAGE, TN (Catholic Online) - Across the Middle East where Christianity was born and where Christians have maintained a presence for 2000 years, Christianity is in decline, most dramatically in Iraq. Against the enduring beauty and attraction of the Gospel, this decline is due to an alarming rise in political, jihadist Islam that is systematically annihilating Christians all over the world.

It is a persecution few dare name, because to do so means confronting powerful religious and political realities that have defied resolution for millennia and rising, popular anti-Christian sentiment worldwide. Christians are simply not seen as victims at all.

Iraqi Christians are part of historic indigenous communities that have been in the area now known as Iraq since nearly the time of Christ; they predate Islam by several centuries. The Christian community took root there after the Apostle Thomas headed east in the year 35.

The majority are Chaldean Christians, the largest concentration of which remain in Baghdad, Iraq. There are ten Chaldean dioceses in Iraq, four in Iran, and four others in the Middle East. The Chaldean, (East Syrian), liturgy is in use there, along with a number of Latin customs, and their liturgical language is Syriac.

But now after nearly 2,000 years, Iraqi Christians are being hunted, murdered and forced to flee – persecuted on a biblical scale in Iraq's religious civil war. These brothers and sisters in Christ who can trace their history in the region back some 2,000 years have fled to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and to northern Iraq by the hundreds of thousands to avoid certain martyrdom.

Neither Muslims nor Kurds, they are victimized for several reasons. Some of them aligned themselves with coalition forces; others are targeted because they do not follow Islamic laws that forbid alcohol and compel women to wear scarves on their heads. In addition, crimes against them are often motivated by money because the Christians there are often merchants.

But fundamentally, it is a religious war. Muhammad commanded, "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him." The worst episodes have occurred in regions with diverse ethnic and religious groups, such as Baghdad and Mosul, where the majority of Iraq's Christians live. The State Department reported last year that Muslim extremists warned Christians living in Baghdad's Dora district to convert, leave or be killed.

Additionally, traditional Islamic law mandates that all non-Muslims who submit to Islamic rule pay a special jizya tax from which Muslims are exempt; that non-Muslims must not hold authority over Muslims; not build new churches or repair old ones; and that they submit to various other humiliating and discriminatory regulations that motivate the murder and persecution of Christians by Muslim jihadist gangs who knock on their doors to collect what Islam dictates is their religious "due." 

Christian students and men are kidnapped and never seen again. A 6-month-old baby was beheaded, roasted and then presented to his mother. A Syrian Orthodox priest was kidnapped, murdered and dismembered in Mosul, even though his parish submitted to ransom demands by a Muslim group for $40,000 and the public renunciation of Pope Benedict´s remarks in his address in Regensburg, Germany that caused rioting all over the Islamic world.

The traditional, discriminatory Islamic laws that have led recently to widespread and violent persecution of Christians have not been enforced in Iraq since it was an Ottoman province, because under Western pressure in the 1850´s the Ottoman Empire abolished the system. In Saddam Hussein´s Iraq, as well as Syria and other countries where relatively secular governments have been in power in recent decades, lawmakers took their cues in many areas more from Western law than Islamic law, and Christians enjoyed relative equality with Muslims.

But the invasion and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that removed Saddam Hussein have created political instability and an authority vacuum that has allowed a jihadist and supremacist power insurgence that preys on Christians in their midst with increasing brutality and boldness. In Iraq, half of the nation´s prewar 700,000 Christians have now fled the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Hundreds of thousands have been tortured and martyred.

In addition, the new, post-Taliban Afghani regime´s constitution stipulates that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam." Unfortunately the traditional Islamic classification of apostasy as a capital crime is often included in this stipulation, and Christians are executed with full protection of the law.

Now that President Obama is removing U.S. troops from Iraq, resurgent Islamic supremacism is only gaining momentum. His pledged support of Islamic nations emboldens attacks and Christians are the principal victims of this militant religious resurgence, while their pleas for protection fall on deaf ears.

Tragically, human rights groups and even Christians in the West remain strangely silent while Islamic extremists push to eliminate ancient Christian communities in Islamic lands, and to render Christianity extinct. These are our Catholic brothers and sisters in Iraq, and they are being uprooted and massacred. Unless the violence stops, it is thought there may be no Christians left in Iraq in a decade.


Sonja Corbitt is a Catholic Scripture teacher, study author and speaker. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit her at and


Pope Francis calls for your 'Prayer and Action'

© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.


More Middle East

AL-QAEDA ALIVE: 'We must eliminate the cross ... The bearer of the cross is America!' Watch

Image of  In the video, the nefarious

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"This is quite an extraordinary video," terrorist experts Paul Cruickshank says. There's another word for it: absolutely horrifying. In the video, the nefarious "crown prince" of al-Qaeda, Nasir al-Wuhayshi is seen addressing a group of 100 like-minded ... continue reading

Suffering, dying in silence: Syrian Christians face arduous holy week Watch

Image of Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus says that Syrian Christians face a seemingly endless Way of the Cross, with many suffering and dying in silence.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The assassination of Dutch Jesuit Fr. Frans van der Lugt, shot to death by an unknown assailant at his base in Homs, Syria on April 7 has cast a pall for the faithful here. Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus says that Syrian Christians face a ... continue reading

Asia Bibi remains in prison, reluctant officials hide behind bureaucracy Watch

Image of Asia Bibi remains in prison, judges unwilling to take up her case for fear of violence.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman facing death for blasphemy in Pakistan still sits in a women's prison her case held up by deliberate delays and a reluctance of judges and others to hear her case. Officials are afraid that they will become targets of Islamic ... continue reading

Dutch priest beaten, killed at his Syrian monastery Watch

Image of Father Frans van der Lugt was described as a man of great courage who

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Dutch Jesuit priest, 75-year-old Frans van der Lugt was beaten and shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his monastery in Homs, Syria this week, the Vatican said. He had been living in Syria since the early Seventies. He's being described as man of great courage ... continue reading

Tunisian government strives to root out Islamist influence from Mosques Watch

Image of Tunisia's newly elected government, recognizing that one of the nation's chief sources of revenue is tourism, has wasted little time in quelling extremist factions there.

By Kaci Racelma (Algiers, Algeria)

Tunisian authorities, along with the Islamist party Ennahda had clashed on several levels for any months. The conflict was felt on all strata of Tunisian society. Violence roiled in the streets, to the universities, in places of worship and private homes. ... continue reading

Syrian refugees in Lebanon passes one million mark Watch

Image of U.N. staff in Lebanon register 2,500 new Syrian refugees every day, the UNHCR said.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As Syria's devastating Civil War drags into its fourth year without an end in sight, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has officially passed the one million mark, the United Nations' refugee agency says. Syrian refugees now make up almost a quarter of ... continue reading

Meet Catholic Online's new Middle East correspondent Watch

Image of Kaci Racelma received his Bachelor of English literature in 1996. He has worked in the daily Algerian newspaper la Nouvelle République since 1998.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Journalist Kaci Racelma has joined the Catholic Online family as a much needed and vaunted Middle East correspondent to our international news desk. We welcome his wealth of experience in relaying breaking stories in this complex part of the world.  LOS ... continue reading

Authorities break up kiddie sex abuse ring, 17-year-old pimp and several men arrested Watch

Image of Several hundred women in Israel - many of them foreigners - are trafficked within the country annually for commercial sexual exploitation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Tel Aviv Police have arrested seven men in connection with a child molestation ring. An undercover investigation began after one of the purported victims came forward and told them about a number of girls who had sex with a group of adults in exchange for ... continue reading

New Saudi Arabian law defines atheists as 'terrorists' Watch

Image of Saudi King Abdullah has clamped down on all forms of political dissent and protests that could

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to a report from Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia has introduced a series of new laws which define atheists as terrorists. King Abdullah has issued Royal Decree 44, which criminalizes "participating in hostilities outside the kingdom" with prison ... continue reading

Executions on the rise: United States among top five countries Watch

Image of The report does note that only a small number of countries, about one in 10, carry out executions, and 140 countries are against the death penalty either in law or actions.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Executions for criminals for a variety of crimes has risen across the world. While the majority of these executions take place in the Middle East, the United States is among the top five nations that has experienced an uptick in capital punishment. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading

All Middle East News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 52:13--53:12
13 Look, my servant will prosper, will grow great, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
2 turn your ear to me, make haste. Be for me a ... Read More

Gospel, John 18:1--19:42
1 After he had said all this, Jesus left with his ... Read More

Reading 2, Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
14 Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 18th, 2014 Image

St. Apollonius the Apologist
April 18: Martyr whose Apologia, or defense of the faith, is considered ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook

Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter