A small, but hardy group
of people are quietly crossing their fingers and praying
that the experiment that is Iraq will succeed.
They are the Assyrian
Christians, the 2.5 million strong band of Iraqis who are
the people of Nineveh to whom Jonah came following his
experience with the whale of biblical fame.
A tiny oasis of normalcy
amidst a sea of Moslems, these original or indigenous people
of Iraq are struggling to survive.
At a recent conference
the Iraqi Minister of Defense said "The Assyrian Christians
are the original people of Iraq - this is their country.
Whatever they need to remain in the country we will help
them with, They above all people should not have to leave."
So what is it that they
need? With estimates of up to 90,000 Assyrian Christians
having left the country the mood is not encouraging.
At a recent conference in
Washington representatives outline the most urgent needs.
Known as the "Five R's"
Reconstruction - A recent
report by the EU found that "little or no assistance being
received by the Assyrian Christian community in Iraq due to
discrimination by local officials."
392 historically Assyrian
Christian villages in the north of Iraq are urgently in need
of repairs to roads, sewage, electricity and general
reconstruction which is not being done.
Resettlement - Estimates
of up to 100,000 Assyrian Christians need to return home to
their historic area but have not been able to do so.
Regional Administration -
According to Article 53 of the Iraqi Constitution the
Assyrian Christians are entitled to an area of their own in
which they can have autonomy and pass their own local laws.
Regional Security - An
urgent need for a security system for the community. A
Security System proposed originally to the Coalition
Provisional Authority still languishes on a desk in Baghdad
in spite of four spates of Church Bombings.
Registration - in order
to be able to compete in upcoming elections the Assyrian
Christians are desperately in need of a reform of the
current proportional Representation system which will deny
them any representation and deliver the country into the
hands of radical Moslems, The community urgently needs
assistance to register people and organize and effective
The Assyrian Christians
are the "canary in the mine" of Iraq. How they go is how
Iraq will go.
In 1980 a meeting was
held in Lahore Pakistan by representatives of all the Moslem
majority nations. It was determined by the year 2000 to rid
the Middle East of all Christians.
The Christian population
of the Middle East has gone from nearly 20% to now under 2%.
In contrast the Middle Eastern population of the United
States is 78% Christian reflecting this dramatic exodus.
Will Iraq be emptied of
its indigenous population of Assyrian Christians? The
determination of the outside world to ensure that the
community receives the "Five R's" will decide whether Iraq
fails or succeeds.