As debate over Iraq erupts again in the Australian parliament, there’s one aspect of the seemingly intractable conflict which doesn’t appear to have been mentioned in the domestic stoushing, even after Kevin Rudd made a prominent case in The Monthly for the compatibility of Christianity and an anti-war stance. Yet to filter into either the Australian media or political discussion is the appalling situation of Iraqi Christians.
The New York Times carried a report yesterday on the murder of priests, the attacks on Christians’ property and churches, the many kidnappings and the flight of perhaps half of the Christian population from “democratic” Iraq.
Pope Benedict’s ill-chosen remarks in his Regensburg address are now being seized upon by Iraqi factions to threaten Christians with individual and collective retribution.
There are several ironies here. The first is that much of President Bush’s foreign policy has been influenced by Christian groups. Tony Blair too has spoken in almost messianic tones of his foreign policy goals. Christian Zionists have made an unlikely alliance with both neo-cons and the Israeli state, and Bush has peppered his speeches on terrorism with carefully chosen evangelical language.
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But Bush’s stance on issues such as human rights in China and HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa has also been shaped heavily by Christian concerns. In the former case, both Catholics and Evangelicals have been highlighting the persecution of Christians as a human rights issue.
Strangely, though, this foreign policy imperative has not extended to the “liberated” Iraq. Vatican diplomacy, when the US still had influence over the constitution writing process in Iraq, largely failed to gain the desired protections for religious minorities (including the Iraqi Jews).
In all the fierce debate over the morality of Australia’s participation in the war, it’s striking that the self-identified Christian voices in Parliament, such as Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and Steve Fielding, have been silent over the plight of their co-religionists actually living in Iraq.