Campaign Launched in London to Save Assyrian Christians

In light of a series of violent incidents targeted at churches and Christians in Iraq, the international community is becoming increasingly concerned about the worsening situation. Yesterday a campaign was launched in London by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, claiming to save the Assyrian people of Iraq from extinction, reported the Telegraph newspaper.

The Assyrian civilisation has a very rich historical background. It has existed since 3,000 BC and was said to be the people of Nineveh where Jonah was sent by God to preach the message of repentance - the people had all turned to God. Therefore, Assyrians have some of the oldest Christian traditions in the world, dating back to the first century.

Nowadays, about 800,000 Assyrians live in Iraq with an additional half a million around the world. They still speak the ancient biblical language of Aramaic. Living alongside with Muslim majority in Iraq, the mainly Christian community has faced persecution for hundreds of years.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey yesterday joined members of the Assyrian community in London at the House of Lords to launch a campaign raising awareness of their plight. He said, "In recent months and years churches and monasteries have been attacked and people have been killed. In one case a young man was kidnapped and beheaded. We are talking about terrible atrocities which would undermine any community."

In fact, Pascale Warda, the Iraqi Minister of Migration reported in October as the first bombing on churches started in Baghdad, approximately 40,000 Assyrian Christians fled to neighbouring countries in the threat of Islamic extremist’s attack.

Lord Carey condemned, "It is systematic violence against Assyrian people, driving them out of their homes and pillaging them. It is putting pressure upon them to get them to leave."

Recently, further violence has been triggered by the upcoming Iraqi National Election on 30th January, while local and overseas Assyrians are all fighting hard for their right to vote. On Monday, a suicide bomber rocked the centre of Baghdad and 11 people were injured. It was said to be associated with the al-Qaeda affiliate.

The Rev Doctor Khoshaba George, who runs an Assyrian church in London, said, "We were waiting more than 40 years for the change of regime and hoping for a bright and new future for Iraq and our nation. Unfortunately things went wrong and our condition in Iraq is becoming worse and worse."

Mark Seddon, campaign organiser, said, "There does appear to be a degree of ethnic cleansing going on now."

He called for Assyrian rights to be enshrined in the new Iraqi constitution and for Assyrians dispossessed by the violence to be given the financial aid to return to their lands and homes.