The Only Possible Solution to the Arab World’s Terminal Disorder.
By Paul Merkley
The Long Perspective.
Christianity was born in the Middle East – long before the Middle East became Arab and Muslim.
For perhaps a decade or two following the Ascension of Jesus Christ, all of the people who accepted the Christian message were Jews – most of them living in Jerusalem. But then missions, headed originally by surviving apostles, went out beyond Judea and Samaria and sought converts among the many neighboring kingdoms that were, like the Jews of Judea, subject to Roman rule. Among the first of these Kingdoms to accept Christian faith as its national faith was Armenia — a prosperous Kingdom in part of what is today Turkey. Shortly thereafter, various Kingdoms in Egypt, Abyssinia (Ethiopia), North Africa and Arabia also entered the world of Christianity.
Nearly six centuries later, Islam came into the world.
For perspective, we might note that several further centuries would again go by before the English language came into the world. And yet it is safe to say that most people who imagine themselves well-informed about history nod passively before the politically-correct fiction that Islam is indigenous to the Arab world, and that where there are churches anywhere in that world these were imposed during recent centuries by European missionaries working hand-in-hand with political imperialists. It is Islam that was and is the imperialist in this story.
The Challenge from Islam.
Within a few decades of the appearance of the Qur’an (630 AD), these Christians were faced with the terrible dilemma of either surrendering to fanatical illiterates everything that they believed — or converting, by simple vocal declaration. Ever since then, those brave souls who stayed with the faith have lived under the stigma of being subversive opponents of Truth, denied the benefit of full participation in the circles of those who govern and subject to punishing taxes from which the faithful are exempt. This is called the dhimmmi system, the system under which non-Muslims are allowed to exist but with restricted liberties, as less than citizens. This state of affairs continued legally until the last of the Muslim empires fell – that is the Ottoman Empire, which was dismantled about the end of the First World War.
At the same time, the Islamic warriors who founded their kingdoms beyond Arabia quickly became aware of certain benefits that they could gain by not bearing down too far on their Christian subjects, by not compelling their conversion. Compared to the Muslim warriors who were sweeping in from Arabia, indigenous Christian people throughout the Middle East and beyond had enjoyed high levels of literacy, education, professional accomplishment, economic success and extensive connections abroad. Accordingly, the Arab masters drew the Christians into eminent roles in the public life.
The political leaders in the Arab world have always had to tread a fine line as they sought to sustain these valued indigenous, non-Arab, non-Muslim communities, while fending off accusation from the Muslim majority that they are aggrandizing the enemies of Allah. In moments of extraordinary crisis in the public life of the Arab world, these political masters swiftly turned their backs on the Christians and surrendered them to the Muslim mobs.
I have space here only to note two major extirpation campaigns of this kind that have taken place since the year 1900. One of these campaigns resulted in the absolute ejection from the Arab world of one of the most ancient Christian communities – the Armenians. The other, still ongoing, has so far resulted in the savage reduction of numbers and of political and social significance of the Assyrians, who existed until recently in scattered communities in parts of Iraq and Syria, but who are being targeted for annihilation by the Islamist politicians who have come to power during the so-called Arab Spring. While this has happened, Western governments and Western news media have looked the other way. [John Rossomando, “Hudson Panel: U.S.ignoring increasing Christian persecution,” The Investigative Project on Terrorism,” March 28, 2013.http://ca.mg206.mail.yahoo.com, March 28, 2013.]
Shortly after World War One began, the new nationalist-secularist leaders of what had been the Ottoman empire, found themselves courted by the masters of both camps in that War. Anticipating (reasonably enough) a great victory for the Central Powers, the Turks threw their lot on the wrong side – against the Allied Powers (including Britain, France and Russia.) Under cover of preventing massive Armenian betrayal of the national interest, the Turks conducted a popularly-supported extermination campaign against the Armenians — remembered as “the Armenian massacre” of 1915. While there is no doubt that the government of the Turks carried out this attempted genocide for geopolitical reasons, there is equally no doubt that the exercise was immensely popular, and, more important, its validation derived from Islam. Armenian sources today put the numbers of deaths as high as 1,500,000. Although the estimate may be high – who can really know? — there can be no disputing the result: the liquidation of up to one-half of the Armenian people of the time and the disappearance of the homeland of the Armenians. [http://www.armenian-genocide.org/genocide.html ]
The irreducible significance of this event is best borne out in the remark of Adolf Hitler to his generals as they went off to carry out their assigned tasks in connection with the implementation of the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” [http://www.armenian-genocide.org/hitler.html]]
The Imminent Extirpation of the Assyrian Christians.
Almost all of the Christians living today Iraq and Syria belong to churches whose origins go back several centuries before the origins of the major churches of the West. Only hyper-experts can sound off the names of the many “denominations” that emerged after these many centuries of sectarian/theological conflict. For convenience, commentators today group them all together as “the Assyrian churches.”
In 1947, 4.7 million Iraqi Christians – almost all of them Assyrians — represented about 12% of the population; by 2003 they were reduced to about a million and a half, representing about 6% of the population. That was before the U.S. –led invasion. In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Assyrians had looked to the dictator as their protector against popular hostility. The moment that Saddam Hussein fell, Muslim mobs acting on the advice of their religious teachers, began attacking the Christians, the churches and their properties. Even before ISIS, the Islamic State, got into the game a few months ago, hundreds of Christians had been kidnapped and murdered by other Iraqis because of their Assyrian ethnicity and their Christian faith; by 2013 the number had dropped to perhaps 450,000; since the ISIS campaign of liquidation, their numbers are now estimated to be as low as 200,000. As they fled in terror, their neighbours marked their homes with the Arabic equivalent of the letter N (for “Nassarah” = Nazarenes or Christians)—an open invitation to looting.
Meanwhile, nearly a third of Syria’s Christians, about 600,000, have fled that country. Tens of thousands have joined the Muslim swarm that is now beating down the borders between European countries. ISIS has executed more than 11,000 of these people in Iraq and Syria (See http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/10/05/report-syrian-christians-cry-jesus-isis-mass-beheading; and see “The Islamic State’s Treatment of Christians,”“ MEMRI (firstname.lastname@example.org, August 15, 2014.) Many thousands of those who survived now languish in refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, and Syria. A few have been blessed by getting counted into the contingent of refugees presently being admitted into Canada.
A well-known Catholic writer George Weigel has studied this dreadful scene and concluded that it is entirely reasonable to speak of Genocide – even though official Washington has only belatedly and grudgingly accepted a limited use of the term. Weigel writes:
Christians who can flee have done so. Yet they cannot take shelter in U.N.-run camps, where they are often targets of Muslim violence. And the U.S. State Department treats Iraqi Christians fleeing ISIS to autonomous Kurdistan as “internally displaced persons” who have no claim to resettlement…. Thus far, the West’s response has been craven and cruel…. Today, western politicians seem to fear that naming the genocide of Christians for what it is, or treating Christian refugees as refugees, will be taken as a gesture of disrespect for Islam. This is shameful. (George Weigel, “ISIS, Genocide, and Us, http;//www.firstthings.com, February 20, 2016.
The Case for An Autonomous Assyrian.
At the time of the Versailles Conference (1918-1920) when it seemed that Woodrow Wilson and the Allies had it in their hands to shape the political map of the world forever along lines of liberalism and nationalism, there was a powerful sentiment in favor of knitting together the many Assyrian communities scattered throughout Syria, Iraq and parts of Turkey and forming an independent State of Assyria. It would, of course, have had a Christian majority. Therefore, the project did not survive. The long-and-short of it was that the European governments became embarrassed by the appearance of having a loyalty to Christianity. At the same time, these same Western leaders grievously over-estimated the resources for nation-building that were then being claimed by Arabs and by their British champions – most powerfully, by the egregious Lawrence of Arabia.
And so the European leaders dropped the Assyrian cause . It was a bad bargain for all concerned.
Today, leaders in the Assyrian diaspora are struggling heroically to raise awareness for the same cause – the creation and protection under international auspices of a nation of mainly Christian population, which could draw to itself and give protection to Christian minorities and others, like the Yazidis of Iraq, undergoing similar persecution by the Muslim masses.
The stirring manifesto of these Assyrian Christians can be discovered at the website of the Assyrian International News Agency http://www.aina.org/news In a recent item from this site we find this insight – one that has not yet grabbed either our policy-makers or our opinion-makers:
While the government of France, for example, has announced its intention to grant asylum to Christians forced out of Mosul … [what is needed is] … a permanent safe-haven in the Middle East itself: the birthplace of Christianity. (Nujri Kino, “The U.S. and U.N. must establish a safe haven for Assyrians in Iraq,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com, August 5, 2014.]
This proposal, coming from the Assyrian diaspora, has everything going for it. The solution to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East minorities will never come if Western nations remain content to buckle down and make place in the Western world for those who are able to flee that world—because the corollary to that tactic is to acquiesce in the removal of the most civilized elements in that world, where more civilized people are needed. Western nations – the nations who used to identify with Judaeo-Christian civilization – must impose a “safe haven” in situ—an autonomous polity, whose security is guaranteed by international agreement – within the world in which these Christian communities have maintained our faith for nearly two millennia .