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- American FRRME | Archaeological Finding
Adapted from a story at All Arab News Christianity has been indigenous to Iraq for thousands of years. Many of the first Christians hailed from the region which is now Iraq, particularly the Nineveh Plain. The Nineveh Plain was one of the stops of the Apostle Thomas on his mission to evangelize the world, in which he eventually carried the Gospel to India. Historically, the Christians of Iraq are considered to be the descendants of some of the first gentile converts to Christianity, in a long, unbroken lineage that still closely resembles the 1st century Church in worship and tradition. Despite this storied history, however, various attempts by empires and sectarian terrorists to destroy the indigenous populations of Northern Iraq – from the Ottomans to ISIS – have resulted in genocides for the Christians, Yazidis, and Shabak native to this region. The most impactful instance in recent memory was August 2014, when the ISIS insurgency pushed across the region, and terrorists kidnapped and slaughtered families, trafficked women and girls, destroyed towns, and demolished ancient churches and the priceless relics they housed. This region – still reeling from the recent Iraq war – was shaken, and its people were largely displaced. Mosul was formerly an ISIS stronghold, especially during its short-lived “caliphate” led by the “first caliph” of the Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Despite ongoing security risks in the region, Mosul is now free from the oppression of ISIS, and Christians are able to freely worship here again. Since then, the towns of Northern Iraq and the Nineveh Plain have been rebuilding. Most Christians displaced in the fighting have not returned, but life is slowly beginning to emerge again, to a similar pace that it was before the decade and a half of war that transpired here. In this return to life, many programs have begun reaching out to those who were impacted by ISIS, such as Catholic University in Erbil . During this time, churches have begun rebuilding and repairing the damage done by the insurgents, including the Church of Saint Thomas in Mosul. While doing so, parishioners uncovered several relics that attest to the cultural historicity of Iraqi Christianity. Earlier this month, around a dozen ancient relics and parchments belonging to Christian saints were uncovered inside the church. The restoration project is part of the Mosul Mosaic initiative , which aims to preserve Mosul’s cultural heritage. The project began in December 2020, after the Iraqi Army cleared the site from mines and other explosive remnants of war. The project is being overseen by the French organization, l’Oeuvre d’Orient, in coordination with the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) of Nineveh and the French Institut National du Patrimoine. The archaeological findings confirm the strong connection between Christianity and Iraq in ancient times. Several relics were found that have enormous significance to Iraqi Christians, and Christians around the world. Six stone containers with Aramaic inscriptions of saints, and several manuscripts in Syriac and Aramaic languages were found inside the Syrian Orthodox Church of Mar Thomas (The Church of Saint Thomas) in Mosul. The church is believed to have been built in the 7th century A.D. on the site where the house of Jesus’ Apostle Thomas lived during his stay in Mosul, according to Christian tradition. During the 1960s, remains were found during another church restoration that are believed to be the finger bones of St. Thomas himself. The original church was destroyed during the Persian siege of Mosul – which was then part of the Ottoman Empire – in the 18th century and rebuilt by the 18th-century governor of Mosul, as a sign of gratitude toward the city’s Christian defenders. One of the inscriptions found by the workers in the church related to Saint Theodore, a Roman soldier born in the province of Corum, Turkey, in the 3rd century, who was beheaded after converting to Christianity. According to Asia News, “at the conclusion of the excavations, five more reliquaries were collected: of Saint Simon ‘the Zealot,’ a first-century apostle; relics of Mor Gabriel, bishop of Tur Abdin (593-668); relics of Saint Simeon the Wise (1st century), an elder who welcomed the infant Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem; relics of Saint John, (Yohanan Shliha) apostle of Christ; relics of Saint Gregory Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286), Maphrien (regional primate) of the Syrian Orthodox Church from 1264 to 1286.” In addition, parchments written in Syriac, Armenian and Arabic – wrapped and protected in glass bottles – were also discovered in the ruins of the church. During its reign of terror in the years following the fall of Mosul in 2014, ISIS left Mosul in ruins and forced hundreds of thousands of Christians in the Nineveh province surrounding Mosul to flee. It is estimated that ISIS destroyed at least 14 churches in the Nineveh province alone during its onslaught on Christians and Christian culture and that it plundered and destroyed – frequently by simply blowing up – at least 28 historical religious buildings in Iraq in 2014 and 2015 alone. Those buildings not only included churches but also “mosques, graves, shrines, churches and monasteries of historic character,” Iraqi deputy minister of Iraq said at the time. The destruction by the members of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq was not limited to Christian artifacts. In 2014 and 2015, videos emerged that showed ISIS terrorists destroying ancient artifacts from multiple ancient civilizations with sledgehammers and jackhammers inside the Mosul Museum. Many of the artifacts were irreplaceable originals. American FRRME is deeply committed to protecting Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities across the region. We champion any attempt to celebrate the role of the church in Iraqi culture, and the attempts to rebuild and repair the destruction caused by terrorists. We are committed to long term self-sustaining programs and opportunities to help empower refugees and IDPs in the region. Donations to American FRRME go to programs that will aid in the survival of families facing persecution across the Middle East.
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- American FRRME | Squeezing Christians Out
Iran is Squeezing Christians and Minorities out of the Middle East, Says Researcher By Keely Jahns Published On June 2, 2022 A researcher with the Philos Project told journalists in February that Iran is squeezing non-Muslims out of the country, and is fighting to do the same in nearby states such as Iraq and Syria. In these neighboring nations, Iran is taking advantage of local political instability to gain a foothold in a war torn region. Senior Research Fellow Dr. Farhad Rezaei, an Iranian Kurd, is a Christian convert who fled Iran and now teaches at York University and resides in Canada. The Philos Project is a nonprofit group that educates and advocates for Christians in the Middle East. Rezaei said, during a February 2022 briefing, that only Sunni Jihadists have contributed to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East is “too simplistic,” and ignores the influence of Iran-backed militias in countries like Iraq. These Iran-backed militias are especially prevalent in Northern Iraq, where the majority of the refugees in our programs are from. This is little-known internationally, as the spotlight has often been on ISIS, and prior to that, Al-Qaeda. However, sources such as Reuters , have shed light on Iranian combat troops believed to have been stationed in Iraq since 2014. A native Iranian, Rezaei noted that since the country’s 1979 revolution, Islamic leaders in Iran have described adherents to minority religions such as Christianity and Judaism as “pollution,” and have taken steps to shrink the size of the Christian and Jewish communities by pushing them out of the country. In Iraq, Rezaei noted, Iran-backed Shiite militias have carried out numerous abductions, killings, and sexual assaults in recent years. They have also seized large areas of land belonging to Christians, especially in the Nineveh Plain. In total, at least 20,000 acres of farmland have been burned, and the militias have carried out at least 75 attacks on places of worship, with at least nine instances of using a church as a military base. Many of these crimes have been solely attributed to Sunni jihadist groups such as the Islamic State, rather than Iran. In Northern Iraq, it’s not widely known that Iranian forces are occupying large areas, with Shiite forces squeezing the native Christians out by seizing property. Just as the Sunni-backed Islamic State, Shiite-backed Iran is competing for control in a politically unstable region. On top of all of this, Turkey is also fighting a proxy war in Northern Iraq, and has bombed several towns on the Nineveh Plain since last year. A region rife with Islamic extremism, Sunni jihadists groups are also still an active scourge on the region. That cannot be understated. Only a few months ago, we reported that jihadist tensions along the Iraq-Syria border were being watched carefully by Iraqi Christians. It was not long ago that ISIS waged war on Christians and Yazidis in the Nineveh Plain, attacking towns, burning churches, forcing conversions and killing families. Most that were able to leave were only able to escape with the clothes on their backs, facing uncertain futures in neighboring nations. Those futures are still uncertain for those who have stayed and those who are now returning. From the February 2022 killing of Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al-Qurayshi, al-Baghdadi’s successor of head of ISIS, to the Turkish air raids in Kurdistan, to the assault on Ghwayran prison, tensions have been heightened on the Iraqi-Syrian border. As the conflict has escalated, ISIS affiliated militias, who once controlled half of the territories between the two nations, maintain active sleeper cells, ready to strike. The tensions between the two Islamic extremist groups, wrought with layers upon layers of political turmoil, religious difference, and a hatred of anyone deemed “other;” has boiled over and impacted hundreds of thousands of innocents in the Nineveh Plain over the last decade. Regional clashes between different militias, minority groups, and facets of the Iraqi government have also recently displaced over 1,000 Yazidi families on the Nineveh Plain . This is unfortunately not the first time that the Yazidis have been uprooted from their homeland. In a region rife with political turmoil, the Christians, Yazidis, and Shabak of the Nineveh Plain need our help now more than ever before. The refugees who have fled their homelands in search of peaceful and stable futures, from 2014 onward, need programs to help their bodies, minds, and spirits recover from the intense trauma they have experienced. In the wake of the growing refugee crisis around the world, more programs are needed like the ones administered by American FRRME. Unfortunately, refugees are among the world’s most underserved populations. Life is not easy for Iraqi refugees. As adversity grows, programs are needed to protect the most vulnerable of these refugees. American FRRME is committed to long term self-sustaining programs and opportunities to help empower refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. Donations to American FRRME go to programs that will aid in the survival of families facing violence across the Middle East.
- American FRRME | Persecution
American FRRME Chairman, Col. Max Wood joined American Sunrise with Ed Henry and Karyn Turk, on Real America’s Voice, to talk about the ongoing persecution of Iraqi Christians. Watch here: