Iraqi Christians Fleeing War and Persecution
Dear Friends and Partners,
Every day we hear about civilian and military casualties from the war in Iraq. On April 15, 2008, however, The Ottawa Citizen, the main daily newspaper in Canada’s capital city, carried an article focusing on the suffering of Iraqi Christians along with a follow-up letter to the editor from Rev. El Shafie on April 18, 2008 (to view the articles, click on the links). Christians in Iraq are suffering and have been largely ignored by the West. We must not allow them to be forgotten.
Christians were once a majority in the area and their presence long predates the rise of Islam. Prior to the 2002 invasion, however, Christians had been reduced to about 3% of the population or 800,000 to 1 million people. Accurate figures are difficult to establish, but it is estimated that half, or 400,000 to 500,000 Christians, have fled their homes because of the fighting, lack of security, and religious persecution and will never be able to return. They are driven out of traditionally Christian areas through intimidation and extortion, kidnapped for ransom, and killed. Their only option is to flee as, unlike other groups, they have no armed militias for protection. The United Nations Refugee Agency is processing Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan and has estimated that, for example of those registering in Syria, Christians have made up 24-36%.
One Free World International met with officials from the Immigration Minister’s office on March 4, 2008 and presented them with the plight of Iraqi Christians. Two weeks later the Minister announced that the government will double its refugee allocation from Iraq to 1800-2000 per year. This is an important step in the right direction, but it is far from adequate and does nothing to address the unique needs of Christians and other religious minorities like Bahá’í’s and Ismailis.
In fact, the Citizen reports that Tim Vail, an Immigration Department spokesperson, stated the government has “no plans to single out any religious group for special treatment” and will rely on the UNHCR to recommend who needs our help. This policy abdicates Canada’s responsibility for determining our own refugee policy and ignores the differing realities facing the refugees. Muslim refugees have the ability to seek and obtain refuge in neighbouring countries and should do so, but relocating regionally is not an option for Christians, who are viewed as traitors, western agents, and infidels. The only viable option for Christians is to seek refuge in the West, yet when they try, they may not be able to make it to UNHCR centres or may be forced to deal with Muslim officials who obstruct their claims. Canada must take these realities into consideration and adjust its refugee policy accordingly.
Obviously the problem of Iraqi refugees cannot be solved by Canada alone, nor is this just an immigration matter. Canada must pursue a foreign policy that demands accountability from the Iraqi government for ensuring the security and rights of minorities in Iraq so they do not have to flee. With $300,000,000 in aid announced since this conflict began and almost $1.8 billion in total trade annually between the two countries, Canada must use its relationship with the Iraqi government and exercise its influence in Baghdad on behalf of human rights.
We have the ability and responsibility to ensure that Christians and other minorities do not bear an unequal share of the cost of this war. Our brothers and sisters have no one else to turn to. We must not forget or abandon them.
• for peace and security for the Christians in Iraq so that they can live and worship without fear;
• that those Christians who have been forced to flee Iraq would find comfort and peace in the midst of their circumstances and that they will find a place of refuge where they can start new lives;
• that the government of Iraq would fulfill its responsibilities to all its citizens and that peace, security, religious freedom, and respect for human rights would prevail in Iraq; and,
• that our government and our churches would recognize the suffering and take on the responsibility of helping our brothers and sisters in need.
The Bible teaches that faith without action is dead, so please take action urgently and write (contact details are included below):
• to the Minister of Immigration, requesting that the Minister increase the allocation for Iraqi refugees giving priority to Christian and other minority refugees who do not have the option of relocating regionally;
• to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, insisting that the government take an active role in holding the Iraqi government accountable for the human rights of Iraqi minorities so they do not have to flee; and,
• to the Iraqi Embassy, calling on the Iraqi government to strengthen the security situation in the country and to secure and respect the human rights of its minorities so that they can be equal and contributing members of Iraqi society.
Please remember to send us a copy of your correspondence at: email@example.com
Remember, that the persecuted Christians are dying every day, but they are still smiling. They are in a very deep dark night, but they have the candle of the Lord. The enemy can have a very strong weapon and a very strong army, but we have the Lord Almighty.
“They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream” in the Lord’s name.
Be with God and may God be with you.
Rev. Majed El Shafie
President and Founder
One Free World International
El Shafie Ministries
Minister for Citizenship and Immigration
The Honourable Diane Finley
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, ON K1A 1L1
Tel: (613) 996-4974; Fax: (613) 996-9749
Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Honourable Maxime Bernier
Foreign Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
Tel.: (613) 992-8053; Fax: (613) 995-0687
Ambassador of Iraq
His Excellency Howar Ziad
Embassy of Iraq
215 McLeod Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 0Z8
Tel.: (613) 236-9177; Fax: (613) 236-9641
In the United States:
His Excellency Samir Sumaida’ie
Embassy of Iraq
3421 Massachusetts Ave., N.W
Washington, D.C. 20007
Tel: (202) 742-1600 ext. 136; Fax: (202) 462-5066
Your Member of Parliament
Go to: www.parl.gc.ca and enter your postal code to find your MP’s contact details.