By Jim Emerson, staff writer
ISIS’s rapid takeover of parts of Syria and Iraq and the creation of the Islamic State have gravely impacted the Arab-Christian populations that inhabit the region. Churches in the area can trace their origin to the time of Jesus Christ. Islamists, in the city of Mosul, issued an ultimatum to all Christians within the newly founded caliphate to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy (Zakat) or face death. The Christian community is escaping to Kirkuk and the relative religious tolerance and safety of the Kurdish zone.
According to the teachings of various Eastern, Christian churches, Thaddeus of Edessa, brought Christianity to Iraq in the first century. While in Jerusalem, Thaddeus heard the preaching’s of John the Baptist and was baptized by John in the Jordan River. He later met and became a follower of Jesus and was chosen to be one of the Seventy Disciples sent in pairs by Jesus to preach in the cities. After Pentecost and Ascension of Jesus, Thaddeus started preaching the Gospel in Mesopotamia, Syria and Persia (Modern day Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran). Several of the older churches in the region can trace their origins to St. Thaddeus.
During the First Council of Nicea that resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, there were more bishops from Mesopotamia than Western Europe. The region became a haven for Gnostics, who follow what they believe to be the teachings of John the Baptist. It was this Church of the East which brought the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato, along with Greek science and medicine to the Islamic world. How times have changed, as Middle-Eastern Muslims are working overtime to remove Christianity from the face of the earth.
Insurgents of the Islamist State–through their leader Caliph Ibrahim (aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi)—have issued an ultimatum to the dwindling Christian population of Northern Iraq to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or die. Any Christian wishing to remain in the newly declared caliphate declared earlier this month in parts of Iraq and Syria must agree to abide by the terms of a dhimma contract or die by beheading. Any Christian not willing to live under those terms must leave the Islamic Caliphate or face the sword.
The passing deadline has created the largest exodus of Middle Eastern Christians since the Armenian Massacres by the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Without outside assistance, Iraqi Christians must escape to areas controlled by the Kurds who are more tolerant of Christians than the Sunni controlled Caliphate.
Calls for help have gone unheeded by western powers. The only Western, world leader to acknowledge the persecution of Iraqi Christians was Pope Francis who called for an end to violence in the region as he pronounced, “Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are chased away.” (1)
What was Obama doing? Fundraising!