Today I received an e-mail from a Christian group concerned with Syria and Iraq (somehow the two have now become combined in our minds – other than geographic proximity, I know not why).
The e-mail asked for prayers for the Christians of Mosul, claiming that “hundreds of thousands” of Christians are fleeing that devastated area. The only problem? The hundreds of thousands are Iraqis of all stripes religiously speaking, not only or merely Christians.
Other than the fact that it isn’t true*, why is that a problem? For several reasons:
1. As a Christian, it’s simply not okay to pray merely for my own kind, leaving all others to their own devices. God, I am taught, cares for all humanity and has, in fact, created all humanity and not merely Christians, in God’s own image. And what God cares for, I too am to care for. Simple as that.
2. To overstate our suffering is to imply that the suffering of others similarly situated is somehow less than or not important. And that isn’t true. All suffering matters. All suffering is of concern to God, and thus is to be to me as well. There is no room for tribalism in our prayers.
3. To paraphrase the then-Patriarch of Baghdad, who had grown weary of all the questions about the suffering of Christians in Iraq, we are all suffering – Christian, Muslim, we are all Iraqis and we are all suffering. Pray for us all.
4. If you’re from the United States, you might want to include confession as part of your prayer, for our part in the destabilazation of this nation and its people from our support of the tyrannical Saddam Hussein out of our own perceived self-interest through this latest debacle. Others have played their parts, but we own a large measure of the destruction of that nation.
So if you are moved to pray over the plight of the Iraqis, now in more than two decades of violence visited upon them both from within and without, please, please, oh please, pray for them all, for they, God’s own beloved, largely forgotten until the most recent headlines, surely require your prayers.
*Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 203, it was estimated that there were a total of roughly 1.5 million Christians in all of Iraq. Since that time, it has been estimated that the majority of those Christians have fled their homes. In 2009-2010, in the face of a series of concentrated attacks over a 3-month period, slightly more than 4,000 Assyrian Christians from the Mosul area fled Mosul. Wikipedia
As of 2013, the total number of Christians in all of Iraq has been estimated to be between 200-300,000. Islamopedia
The Chaldean News reports that 150,000 people of Mosul are fleeing to the borders with others fleeing to the plains of Ninevah. The Chaldean News
That’s people total. The vast majority of those, even in Mosul, would be Muslims.
According to the Chalean Bishop of Mosul, there were 35,000 Christians living there prior to 2003. Catholocism.org
It is not correct to say that hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing Mosul by virtue of the very simple fact that hundreds of thousands of Christians were not in Mosul to flee.