Before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, an estimated one and a half million Christians resided in the country. As of 2017, only 100,000 to 300,000 believers remain.
Before ISIS took over Mosul, approximately 30,000 Christians lived in this second largest city in Iraq. Now, only an estimated few hundred are left. During Gary Lane’s “Where in The World” interview with Ken Timmerman for CBN News, the author and investigative journalist revealed why he believes Christians are reluctant to return to their homeland.
Timmerman understands keenly what Iraqi Christians are facing. In the recent past, the author has conducted numerous mission and reporting trips to this war ravaged nation. His experiences even inspired him to pen the new book ISIS Begins.
In the interview for CBN News, Timmerman said, “People are afraid and it’s understandable that they are afraid, but they are afraid because the (jihadi) networks are still there on the ground—especially in Mosul.”
He revealed that the persecution Iraqi believers are still going through is extraordinary. He said the agony they’re facing can only be understood by witnessing it firsthand. The investigative journalist stated, “I wanted to give readers a ground truth so they could get a better understanding of what it means to be a persecuted Christian, to be chased by jihadi Muslim groups.”
The novel ISIS Begins is mainly about a Christian interpreter in Iraq who is employed with United States Special Forces. Describing the character, Timmerman said, “He’s chased by a jihadi cell leader, he tries to take his family to Jordan to get US asylum as the US has promised. But of course they prefer to bring Muslims into the United States and not Christians. This is a sad fact of the State Department bureaucracy.”
After going back to Iraq, Timmerman divulged that the interpreter in his book takes a mission trip with some pastors from the United States. The author said the party is attacked while providing aid to the displaced people in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain.
Although Timmerman’s book is a novel, he told CBN News it was based on incidents that have really happened in Iraq. The investigative journalist revealed that Christians residing in the country’s Nineveh Plain have no security. For years, the threatened believers have attempted to create an Assyrian Christian police force.
“The Kurds have been blocking it unfortunately,” the author explained. “That’s what they need, they need security on the ground. But in Mosul they really need to root out these jihadi groups that are underground that are still there…That’s a real underlying problem. People are just afraid. They are afraid that they will again be targeted.”
While many Iraqi Christians may have resigned themselves to living away from their homeland, the believers who remain are subjected to multiple types of persecution. Besides feeling vulnerable to physical attacks, Iraqi Christians are subject to monetary ones. According to International Christian Concern, ICC, on January 23, 2018, the Kurdish Regional Government, KRG, declared that Ankawa business owners would start being charged a fee when they renewed their license. The order was supposed to take effect in June of this year.
Ankawa is a mostly Christian community in Erbil. Those living in this neighborhood have noted that Muslims moving to Ankawa are increasingly pressuring them.
A believer living in Ankawa told ICC, “It was not allowed for Muslims to come and have a house in Ankawa, but now it is a preferable area for Muslims and there are a lot of Muslims who have connections and they are getting permissions.”
Regarding the recent turmoil in Iraq, ICC’s Regional Manager, Claire Evans, stated, “For decades, Iraq’s Christians have long suffered discriminatory policies that reinforce the narrative that believers are vulnerable second-class citizens. History shows that this narrative has led to exploitation and targeted violence that has had significant implications on Christianity in Iraq.”
She went on to add, “Christians throughout Iraq live with the recent memory of ISIS’s violence, which included the institution of a jizya tax against religious minorities. This did not happen within a vacuum. The governing institutions must take the lead on demonstrating that Christians are equal members of society whose rights are valued.”
~ 1776 Christian