Unfinished Business in Iraq

In Iraq, close to a decade of war and humanitarian crises has left much work to be done, if the nation is to rebuild and heal.

Today, after nine years of bloodshed and billions in spent resources, the United States has quietly and solemnly closed its war in Iraq. I will not debate the merits of this military venture, but the following statistics reveal the enormous human toll brought about by the invasion, occupation and the insurrection and sectarian strife that ensued:

Number of dead: about 151,000 Iraqi civilians, 4,777 coalition soldiers
Injured: about 30,000 coalition soldiers; statistics for the number of Iraqi civilians are unavailable
Refugees: the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports more than 4.7 million Iraqis have fled their homes.

  • About 2.4 million are displaced within Iraq or live in the semiautonomous zone controlled by the Kurds.
  • Some 2.3 remain in a limbo-like exile in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey or Egypt. Very few have found permanent asylum in the West.
  • The United Nations estimates that almost half of Iraq’s middle and professional classes have fled.
  • Three-quarters of Iraq’s Christian, Mandaean and Yazidi minorities have fled as well.

Since 1991, the pages of CNEWA’s magazine have covered the various crises in Iraq, especially the impact on the Christian communities there. Most recently, ONE featured the Christian community seeking refuge in historic Christian villages now under Kurdish control. In A New Genesis in Nineveh, reporter Namo Abdulla writes, “the Nineveh plains are among several disputed territories in northern Iraq. Iraqi Christians increasingly view the area as the future homeland for the country’s Christian community, and many now demand it become a semiautonomous region.”

For more than a millennia, Christians have lived side by side with Muslims in this land between the Tigris and the Euphrates — ancient Mesopotamia. A semiautonomous Christian region sounds ghetto-like, and hardly sustainable. But who knows what the future holds.

Between 1991 and 2010, CNEWA has provided more than $8.3 million in direct assistance to Iraqi needy, whether in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria. Some who have benefited from this assistance are Christians, and some are Muslims. All are in need and all have come to our attention by the local church and its army of sisters, priests and lay people.

Armed combat in Iraq may be over, but now the real work of healing Iraq’s people begins. Join CNEWA and the churches of the Middle East in helping to lift up their people.

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