SANTA ANA, Calif. (Dec. 16, 2010) – The centuries-old Christian community in Iraq is on the verge of extinction.
Since 2003, the estimated number of Christians in Iraq has been halved to around 350,000 today. Thousands have fled the country while others have taken refuge in northern Iraq.
In the last two months, a total of 70 to 80 Christians have been targeted and killed by Muslim extremists, including the massacre of 58 at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad on Oct. 31.
In advance of Wednesday’s United Nations Security Council meeting on Iraq, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Tuesday urged the U.S. government to redouble its efforts to protect minorities in Iraq, and use the international forum as an opportunity to address the grave religious freedom situation in Iraq.
“The ‘religicide’ of Christians holds disturbing parallels to a previous effort to eliminate Iraqi Jews in 1941,” says Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller. “Many Jews fled and today virtually nothing remains of the once-vibrant community. People of all faiths must unite to prevent this from happening again. We must fight for freedom of religion for all imperiled faith groups in Iraq.”
Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says “the Christians in the Middle East, including Iraq, have become the new Jews of our times. We call on all people of faith, and all Americans, to speak up for the embattled Christians of Iraq and against the disturbing pattern of violence against other faiths and places of worship.”
Moeller and Adlerstein will address the issue of the embattled Christian community in Iraq during a press conference Monday, Dec. 20, at 10 a.m. at the Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Plaza, 9786 West Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles. Members of other faith groups will participate in the press conference hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.