U.S. Military Archbishop Timothy Broglio said that the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has resulted in the persecution and widespread elimination of Iraq’s native Christian populations, a view that was affirmed by international human rights lawyer Nina Shea, who serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“Yes, you can say in a certain sense that the invasion of Iraq did provoke this tremendous diminution of the Christian population in that country. And what the future holds, that still remains to be seen,” Broglio told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) on Jan. 16 in Rome.
Broglio said that before the invasion Iraqi Christians were a protected minority. Now, they are unprotected by the new Iraqi government.
“Before, they were a minority that was protected, but now they are a minority that is not protected,” Broglio told CNA.
Human rights lawyer Nina Shea, who serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said she agreed with the archbishop’s view about the plight of Christians in Iraq.
In an e-mail to CNSNews.com, she said: “Yes, absolutely. They are the victims of a religious cleansing campaign and no longer viewed as ‘protected’ people. There’s only about a third of the pre-invasion Christian population remaining. This is why USCIRF has recommended that Iraq be designated a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ under the International Religious Freedom Act”
The USCIRF warned in an October 2011 report that Iraq was the home of “systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations.”
The USCIRF report on the state of religious freedom around the world found that Iraqi Christians were the victims of targeted, violent attacks, threat, and insufficient government protection.
“Members of the country’s smallest religious minorities still suffer from targeted violence, threats, and intimidation, against which they receive insufficient government protection. Perpetrators of such attacks are rarely identified, investigated, or punished, creating a climate of impunity,” USCIRF report said.
The Commission’s report also found that religious minorities in Iraq, including Christians, also suffered from government persecution.“The small communities also experience a pattern of official discrimination, marginalization, and neglect,” the report said. “The violence, forced displacement, discrimination, marginalization, and neglect suffered by members of these groups threaten these ancient communities’ very existence in Iraq. These minorities, which include Chaldo-Assyrians and other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis, continue to experience targeted violence, receive inadequate official protection or justice, and suffer discrimination.”