Back in 2003, there were roughly 1 million Christians living in Iraq. Now, there are less than 300,000 and half of them have been forced to flee their homes. Being a Christian and living in the country known for being the ‘cradle of civilization’ is becoming more and more challenging.
Iraqi priest Rebwar Basa has seen the devastation firsthand. Amid the constant persecution of religious minorities, he says, Christians have found support in one another.
Rebwar Basa, Chaldean Priest (Iraq): “When our enemies attack us, they don’t attack us for being Chaldean, or Syrian or even Armenian. They attack us because we’re Christian and we belong to Christ. This makes our identity even more evident. That’s why we need to stand together. Through unity we’ll be able to stay strong.”
Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries for Christians to live in. It’s second only to North Korea.
Throughout his life, Rebwar Basa has been surrounded by war in Iraq. After witnessing so much pain, he’s grown accustomed to the tension and violence.
Christian persecution is something he knows all too well. Two of his professors were killed by Muslim extremists.
Rebwar Basa, Chaldean Priest (Iraq): “I’ve seen and heard so many stories. I’ve known many people who lost their lives because of their faith. The priest who baptized me, was killed on Holy Friday. The Bishop of Mosul, who was my catechism teacher, was killed back in 2008. Another priest named Ragid, who coincidentally was my Theology professor, was assassinated after celebrating Mass in Mosul.”
The Islamic State is recognized as one of the main threats facing the Middle East and Europe.
Ironically, Rebwar says that it’s often the youngest witnesses, who offer the best examples of hope.
Rebwar Basa, Chaldean Priest (Iraq): “Children can sometimes offer the most beautiful testimonies. A girl name Miriam, who is now famous all over the world, is the perfect example. She was asked, ‘What do you want to do to ISIS?, (the same group that forced you out of your country, home and local parish) What’s your wish? How do you want God to respond? She said, ‘I don’t want any revenge. I just want God to forgive them.”
Since the Islamic State took control of Iraq, thousands of civilians have been brutally assassinated. Among them, many Christians. Cities have been demolished and local parishes destroyed. Since late October, the Iraqi government has slowly taken back some Christian cities like Bartella and Karamlesh.
However, the country’s third largest city-Mosul, is still under the control of ISIS. For now, people like Rebwar Basa can only hope and pray that the nightmare ends soon.