The woman whose name means ‘Moon’

During our recent trip to Baghdad we interviewed congregants of St George’s, Iraq’s only Anglican church. One of those willing to share their story was Luna.

Luna was effervescent when we met her and smiled a lot at the start of the interview. This made her opening comment all the more stark: “We had no problems and we never felt any difference between the sects, between Christian and non-Christian. There was no problem until the fall of Saddam’s regime. After the fall of the regime we were exposed to many problems and frightening terror.”

A shocking admission

Shockingly, Luna tells us it was her neighbours who terrorised her. After months of harassment, the threats took a sinister turn: she was told to renounce her religion or leave. She could not give up her faith so she and her husband locked the door to their house and fled. A few years later, they sold the house for much cheaper than they bought it. Luna is unequivocal about the reason: “We sold it because of the problem with the neighbours – we could not be around them anymore, they did a lot of bad things to us.”

Authoritarian regimes Vs. Democracy in the Middle East

Many Iraqi Christians we have interviewed have told us that life was in many ways better under Saddam. The US-led invasion of 2003 led to a civil war and the widespread collapse of law and order in the country. Factionalism and instability have been part of the experience of most Iraqis since then.

Parliamentary democracy works very differently in Iraq. Many people vote according to religious or factional interest. This may explain the recent electoral success of Muqtada al-Sadr whose Ayatollah uncle we spoke to in Baghdad a few weeks ago. Click here to read more about that.

A different perspective

In a piece written for our May newsletter, Lord Hylton (the longest serving member of the House of Lords), writes:

Paradoxically, the Christians of Iraq and Syria were protected by the secular though often brutal regimes of Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad. They were prominent in the professions and in Business. Tariq Aziz, from a Christian family, was Saddam’s foreign minister. 

Over the last 15 years, Christians and other minorities in Iraq have suffered a series of horrors culminating in the terror of ISIS. It is hoped that the new Iraqi government will have a pluralist approach which respects the human rights of all. Iraq has surely had enough tragedy.

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