A guest post by Dr. Marwan Odeesh. Dr. Odeesh was born, raised, and educated in Baghdad, Iraq. This post is his perspective on the situation in Iraq, and the United States’ involvement. Please read carefully and reflectively.
Thank you Dr. Riggs. I am honored to know you. Regarding my belief: I was born into Catholic Christian family, from a long Catholic–Chaldean ancestry, who has kept their Christianity viable for a long time.
I must admit that our Christianity is different from the Christianity I found in the States. Our Christianity is more ritualistic than intellectual, and it is more traditional than revolutionary and life changing. The one thing we do have in common with the West, and the only unifying factor between the Far East and the Wild West, is the Person of Jesus Christ.
The reason for our traditional Christianity, in my opinion, is due to the continual and successive invasions on Iraq in the classical antiquity counted in AD which is my main concern: Achaemenid and Seleucid rule, Parthian and Roman rule, Sassanid Empire, Arab conquest and Abbasid Caliphate, Mongol conquest, Ottoman Turkey and Mamluk rule, up to the British mandate in the 20th century. Iraqi Chaldean and Assyrian Christians have dealt with their Christianity as a treasure to conceal other than a faith to live out on a daily basis and that has made our Christianity a tradition more than a true faith message to live and outreach.
Despite great historic Christian theologians such as St.John of Dalyatha, and St Aphram the Syrian, Christian martyrdom in ancient Iraq, in my opinion, has been the result of our obedience to the engraved teachings of Jesus Christ, rather than a living faith; and being an interactive living body of Jesus Christ, and this is related to the toughened structural composition of the Iraqi personality over time. Maybe because of this, the Iraqi Christians have also had favor in the Lord’s eye to testify of their faith as martyrs.
In the 20th century, Christianity regressed in Iraq massively and constituted a regressing minority among the different multicultural Iraqi communities. Christians, and Christianity, were no longer seen as a threat, or a power. In fact Christians were viewed as legitimate, honorable, honest and decent people with which to work.
In the 1990s the Global Islam Jihad, for political/religious reasons, began rising against America and Europe. The Global Islam Jihad viewed America as invaders to the Arabic lands. This affected the situation of the Christians in Iraq. Iraqi Christians were viewed as traitors to their homelands and seen as having their supreme loyalty to America. This was assumed because the religion of Christianity in Iraq was seen as the same as the dominant religion in America, and because many Iraqi Christian families migrated to America with ease. So, by loving the enemy of Iraq, we were viewed as enemies as well. Today, one of the major problems in the Islamic world, and its even a problem for moderate Muslims, is they consider all Americans to be Christians, they think everyone in the United States lives like Hollywood actors, and they superimpose the Hollywood image over true Christian personality and thus fuel their anger by assuming that everyone in America is messed up and immoral and they equate that with true Christianity.
Added to this perspective, the Arabic Christianity started to mix with the Western idea civil rights and people started to turn to Jesus more. This was especially true in Egypt, where Christians have been repressed throughout history. Egyptian Christianity caught fire and started to grow rapidly. Egyptian Christian theologians mastered the Quran, and Islamic books, and started to debate Muslims and defy Islam. Radical Islam was infuriated, and as a result, they started kidnaping and killing Egyptian Christians, and burning their churches and running over and destroying their properties. In 2010 a radical Islamic group hijacked a Catholic church in Baghdad and killed many worshipers. This was done in retaliation to a rumor spread throughout Egypt that said Church authorities were holding an Egyptian Convert to Islam.
While Christianity in the Middle East has been dying, the ones who are left are becoming more aware of their own rights and have started demanding those rights.
I must admit that being born to middle class family in Baghdad, which celebrated multiculturalism the best in relation to the other cultures of the country, I grew up unaware of religious differences. Most of my friends were, and are, Muslims whom I deeply care for and greatly respect.
After the last war (the one that deposed Sadam) everything changed; our cities, our communities, even our neighbors changed.
The inter-sectarian war between Suni, and Sheeite Muslims changed the demographic composition of the country and people of the same denomination (mainly Sunis and Sheeites) started moving out in a near evacuation process to areas dominated mainly by communities that were correspondent to their own denomination. This racial evacuation process didn’t come at ease, it was the outcome of terrorizing actions held by politically involved Iranian/Iraqi Sheeites militias against Sunis, and a counter part Suni Militias powered by Al Qaida that leaked to the country after the war. These groups terrorized people by verbal threats, kidnapping, torture, financial extortion, property hijacking and painful killing. In short, this is what happened to my family and me. Since Christians do not have any certain demographic dominance on any region of Iraq, the only resort was to flee.
This inter-sectarian terroristic radical Islam was facilitated by the war on Iraq not caused by it. My views on Middle Eastern Islam is summarized by two major conflicting forces: the Suni Wahabi Jihadist of Saudi Arabia who are threatening and laying hands on the Arabian Gulf countries and Egypt, Libya and Algeria; and the Sheeites of Iran, who are threatening and laying their hands on Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria.
Members of the Iraqi government who are loyal to Iran and facilitating more and more for Iran to be involved with the internal affairs of Iraq. This group is responsible for carrying out the recent uniformed terrorist actions against Sunis and non-Muslims in Iraq. (By “uniformed” I mean “police work.”)
After reading the Quran, and Islamic theology, over the past few years, I have realized more and more the Arabic personality, the Quranic-built in hatred to anything non-Muslim, and the major effect of these teachings on the Muslims’ modalities of behavior. The problem is not with the Muslim person, but with the ideology behind Islam. And I still have my doubts on how to help chang the ideology that is progressively becoming deadlier.