SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- No European capital has been brought to a standstill by a march expressing outrage. There are few calls for war-crimes trials of the perpetrators.
The crime is the wholesale eradication of Christianity from the continent that gave it birth.
Across the Middle East, with the exception of Israel, Christians are in the process of being ethnically and religiously cleansed.
It is a genocide and a crime not just against humanity but against our civilisation. Even under the tyrannies of Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad there was a degree of religious tolerance in Iraq and Syria towards minorities.
Certainly there was a tolerance not present in Saudi Arabia, Iran or other hardline theocracies in the region.
But as the dictators began to fall – in 2003 and then in the so-called “Arab Spring” from 2010 onwards – these societies gave way to civil wars of unimaginable brutality. They were Muslim on Muslim. But Christians ended up becoming the focal point.
When Egypt was briefly ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood tens of thousands of Egyptian (Coptic) Christians fled. Others stayed and died, some last seen crossing themselves as the Muslim Brotherhood’s tanks crushed them.
Last year’s military coup in Egypt slowed the exodus but the horror the Egyptian Christians went through proved only a foretaste of the even more brutal forces gearing up nearby.
As the civil war in Syria ran into its third year the darkest forces yet to emerge swept through the region. The militants of Islamic State (IS) attracted the most bloodthirsty sadists as well as the most fanatical Muslim extremists.
This new force regarded its task as the imposition of a hardline version of Islam in which no possible accommodation could be made with any other religion or any other Muslim sect.
Shia Muslims and minority Islamic sects in Syria were targeted. But it was the Christians who were especially purged. IS increasingly chose to target, bomb and destroy some of the most ancient and important Christian shrines and churches.
And as they crossed through Iraq earlier this year they brought their jihad into one of the most important cradles of Christian civilisation.s Foley was brutally murdered by Islamic State extremists [REUTERS]
The lot of Christians in Iraq since the fall of Saddam has been appalling. As Canon Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of Baghdad has attested throughout, Christians in Iraq have been bombed and assassinated as they have been leaving mass. They have been driven out and targeted.
Now it is the home of the majority of Iraq’s Christians in the north that is being purged. These communities encircle what used to be the ancient city of Nineveh, now Mosul. These are communities that for almost 2,000 years have kept the rituals of the church alive. Their language of worship – Aramaic – is the language of Jesus. When they say the Lord’s Prayer it is the precise words Christ taught his disciples.
It is these people who in the past three months have been subjected to the worst onslaught of all. IS, which has been torturing, beheading and even crucifying people as it has gone along, crashed upon this ancient population like a tsunami.
Known Christians were visited at their houses – sometimes by IS, sometimes by ordinary Muslims who used to be their neighbours – and given the options that were given to people conquered in the early years of Islam: convert to Islam, live as a second-class citizen or be killed. IS took away the second option, making the choice “convert or die”.
In recent weeks I have spoken to people who got this order. One woman received a call at her family home in Mosul the night that IS arrived. They told her and her family to leave their house because they were Christian. If they did not they would be killed. They fled that night.
Some fleeing Christians sought sanctuary in the few remaining Christian villages but they were then overrun in turn.
IS has cut off the heads of Christians including the children in Christian families they have captured. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled in their path. Those who have not been able to leave – including some of the elderly and disabled – have been forced to convert. Some have. Others chose martyrdom.
Earlier this month when the Yazidi sect faced eradication at the hands of IS the world rallied to do something but in the face of the eradication of Christianity the Christians of Iraq stand alone. Even the churches in the West remain largely mute. Our politicians do nothing.
Earlier this week I asked a number of Iraqi Christians what they wanted. Asylum is the desperate cry. “Would this not do exactly what IS wants and speed up the end of Christianity in the region?” I asked. “It is the end anyway,” one woman told me simply.
Britain still purports to be a Christian country and today we have a chance to show it. If we are not willing to stop IS then we must let in the Christian refugees who are fleeing. If we do neither then the Christians of Iraq look likely to be martyred in their entirety.
This is a crime we cannot allow to continue. IS must not be allowed to win.