A modern-day exodus is occurring for the Christians of the Northern Iraqi towns of Mosul and Bakhdida. “Convert to Islam, leave the city or face death” is the threat reportedly given Christians by Islamic State militants, a faction of Sunni Muslims practicing an extremist and intolerant version of fundamentalist Islam. Christians are fleeing for their lives, leaving their ancestral homes to seek asylum in Irbil, the capital of the Iraqi region of Kurdistan, and in countries throughout the world. It is said that the Iraqi Christian population once having reached 1 million, may now be no greater than half that size.* After centuries of wreckage caused by hatred and intolerance born from religious fervor occurring in all corners of our globe, we still bear witness to that hatred and intolerance. We are now no closer to a world safe for people of all religions and faiths than we were in the unenlightened Middle Ages.
What is happening to the Christian population of Iraq is but the more recent horrendous face of religious intolerance. We need not go far into history to realize that the Crusades and Pogroms of the past are alive and well in the modern era and that religious freedom is still way beyond our grasp. We have seen:
- the Muslim slaughter of Hindus in India and Pakistan;
- the German slaughter of the Jews based, in part, on the anti-Semitic teachings of Martin Luther;
- the massacre of Sikhs as a response to Indira Gandhi’s assassination;
- the Muslim against Muslim human carnage resulting from the Shi’ite-Sunni conflicts;
- the Bosnian massacre of Bosnia Muslims in the ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Bosnian Serbs;
- the carnage in Sudan between Christian and Animist forces in the south and the Muslim forces in the north, followed by the genocide of black Sudanese Muslims of Darfur inflicted by the Arab Muslims of the north;
- the Sabra and Shatila slaughter of mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites by Lebanese Christians; and
- the current Islamic State displacement of the Yazidis,
to name just a few. We have become so immune to the oh so common onslaught of violent religious intolerance that we take in the news and go about our business believing that violent religious intolerance is someone else’s problem. Today it is the problem of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis. As history has proved, no person and no religion are immune.
It is time we honored and respected God’s diverse and wondrous creation. It is time we recognize that God would never require the religious to be violently intolerant of the differences existing in God’s own creation. What will it take to eradicate religious intolerance? God only knows.
*See, http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-iraq-christians-20140721-story.html., http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/06/17/whats-happening-to-iraqs-christians-as-islamists-tear-across-the-country/, and http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/in-northern-iraq-gains-by-islamic-state-threaten-centuries-old-christian-town/2014/07/19/7088f3b6-0f53-11e4-8c9a-923ecc0c7d23_story.html.