The persecution of Christians in Iraq is worse today than it was before a United States-led force deposed brutal dictator Saddam Hussein, a Republican congressman declared.
“As we witness the black flag of al-Qaida again fly over cities such as Fallujah, which we had won at the cost of so much American blood, we wonder how it is that for Christians in Iraq, life appears to be worse now than it was under the vicious dictator Saddam Hussein,” Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey said at a Tuesday hearing of a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.
One of the witnesses at the hearing was Archbishop Francis Chullikat, who served as the papal nuncio to Iraq. Chullikat said the violence that children in particular have seen — including the killing of Christians — will “leave a lasting scar” on that generation.
Chullikat said “flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages even as we meet.”
Smith disclosed that the population of Christians in Iraq has decreased from 1.4 million in 1987, prior to the first Gulf War, to an estimated 150,000 today.
“Much of this exodus has occurred during a time in which our country invested heavily in blood and treasure in seeking to help Iraqis build a democracy,” Smith said.
In one of the most horrific recent attacks against Christians in Iraq, militants launched two separate bomb attacks against Christians celebrating Christmas, killing at least 37.
In one attack, a car bomb went off near a church during Christmas Mass in Baghdad’s southern Dora neighborhood, killing at least 26 people and wounding 38, police said. Earlier that day, a bomb exploded at an outdoor market in a Christian neighborhood, killing 11 people and wounding 21.
Smith added that “researchers from the Pew Center have documented incidents of harassment of religious groups worldwide — a term defined as including ‘physical assaults; arrests and detentions; desecration of holy sites; and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education, and housing’ — and has concluded that Christians are the single most harassed group today.”