Hey info freaks: What's wrong here ?

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Posted by andreas from dtm2-t8-1.mcbone.net ( on Wednesday, January 08, 2003 at 9:44AM :

Hey info freaks: What's wrong here ?

Please, find below an (original, not fake) article from the Irish Times on Iraqi Christians.

Now, what info is correct, false and what's misleading if not directly placed misinformation?


Will Christians of Iraq be denied the promise of peace?

The Irish Times
January 6, 2003

As the world seemingly prepares itself for war, Patrick Comerford
looks at Iraq from the Christian perspective

The Christmas season traditionally comes to an end today with the
Feast of the Epiphany, which also commemorates the visit of the Magi
to the Child Jesus. The visiting Magi probably came from Babylon or
Mesopotamia in present-day Iraq.

It is easy to forget that, long after the exile, many Jews continued
to live in Babylon and Mesopotamia and that present-day Iraq was once
a biblical land.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the witnesses of the first Pentecost
included "Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of
Mesopotamia", so that the early church included inhabitants of the
area we now know as Iraq. In their liturgy, many of the churches in
Iraq continue to use Syriac, the language closest to the Aramaic
spoken by Christ. As the season of peace draws to a close today, and
we appear to be on the brink of another war, it is worth reminding
ourselves that there is a strong and vibrant Christian community in
Iraq. While Iraq's constitution describes Islam as the state
religion, freedom of religion, belief and worship are guaranteed. In
a population of 23.1 million people, there are about 650,000
Christians, and prominent politicians include Tariq Aziz, a member of
Iraq's largest Christian community, the Chaldeans.

Iraq's Christians trace their origins to both the first Pentecost and
the early missionary activities of the Apostles, especially Thomas.
By the 4th century, there was a thriving church in Mesopotamia under
the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch. The See at
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, near Baghdad, was once the most important
Christian centre outside the Roman or Byzantine Empire.

When the church in Mesopotamia declared its independence, other
Eastern Orthodox churches accused it of the heresy of Nestorianism,
but it has always denied this. The Assyrian Church of the East, as it
became known, was a vigorous missionary church, sending bishops,
priests and monks to Tibet, China and Mongolia centuries before the
voyages of Marco Polo.

The Assyrian church survived both Muslim and Crusader invasions.
Although numbers dwindled through wars, persecutions and massacres,
these Christians maintained their unity until the arrival of Latin
missionaries, intent on suppressing Nestorianism and forcing union
with Rome. Those efforts eventually caused a major rift in the 16th
century. Today, Iraq is the only country in the Middle East where the
largest church of the Christian minority is in communion with Rome:
the Chaldean church remains a vital force in the Christian world of
the Middle East.

Despite divisions, the Assyrian church of the East survived, too,
although there have been further rifts, massacres at the hands of
Kurds and Turks and, collectively, grave disappointment at the
failure of the West to recognise Assyrian claims to nationhood after
the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Iraq's Christian minority also includes the Syrian Orthodox Church,
Syrian Catholics and Greek Catholics, the Armenian Apostolic Church,
which also remembers genocide and massacre at the hands of the Turks,
and a tiny Greek Orthodox community.

When Anglican missionaries arrived in the 1840s, they insisted that
they were there to assist the local church and not to establish
another new church. Irish missionaries from the Church Missionary
Society who worked in Baghdad and Mosul included the Rev Ernest Lavy
and Dr George Stanley, but the first World War disrupted their work,
which came to an end in 1919.

All the churches report that the number of Christians in Iraq is
shrinking, as many leave the country. Those who remain fear the way
extremists can use the present crisis to drive a wedge between
Muslims and Christians and to portray the Western powers as Christian
nations waging a new crusade against Islam. The Archbishop of
Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has warned that presenting Saddam
Hussein as a martyr could strengthen the hand of extremist groups and
has said: "Christians in the region, without exception, say their
position as minorities would be put seriously at threat."

After his return from Bethlehem to Babylon, one of the Wise Men in
T.S. Eliot's Journey of the Magi is left wondering:

. . . were we led all that way for

Birth or Death?

There was a Birth, certainly,

We had evidence and no doubt.

I had seen Birth and Death,

But had thought they were different;

This Birth was hard and bitter agony

for us, like Death, our death.

We returned our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here,

In the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death.

At Epiphany, we might wonder whether the counsels of wise men will
prevail, or whether the Christian people of another biblical land
will be denied the promise of peace that is part of the Christmas
message and face more bitter agony and death.

The Rev Patrick Comerford is Southern Regional Co-Ordinator of the
Church Missionary Society Ireland, which can be contacted at:

-- andreas
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