Commentary: The Five R's

By Ken Joseph Jr.

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" they are:

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 vote,

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.

Rev. Ken Joseph currently completing a book about his experience in Iraq entitled "I Was Wrong"

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