Church Bombing against noble traditions of Islam

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Christians, Church, Islam Values: Mercy, Patience, Righteousness, Tolerance Views: 5253

Some Iraqi civilians stand amid the ruble left after bomb blast outside of a church in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday Aug 1, 2004

In the language of Jesus

This week's attacks on churches in Iraq are a reminder of a small community that has lived for years with the term "beleaguered", but has the potential to re-establish a more tolerant way of life in the Middle East. 

It might easily be assumed that Iraqi Christians are a colonial implant that any self-respecting nationalist would view with suspicion. 

But in fact they are among the oldest religious communities in the world. 

Protected for most of their long history by Islam's tradition of tolerance, they are honoured for their own great gift to mutual understanding: 

Syriac, a version of Jesus's native language, Aramaic. This was the vital bridge in the transmission of Greek, Roman and Jewish thought into Arabic, from which Aristotle, Plato and company eventually returned in the Renaissance to Europe. 

Its greatest stronghold is just outside Iraq, in Turkey's Tur Abdin, the "Mountains of the Servants of God", where an intriguing shift is taking place. 

Pilgrims, students, and tourists of all faiths and none, are returning to nearby monasteries, which were 700 years old when the first stones were laid at Fountains or Rievaulx. Four-and-a-half centuries after the English abbeys were dissolved by Henry VIII, the cloisters still ring with Syriac chants. 

Yet it is only 20 years since the pocket-sized congregations lived in terror, with bombs going off outside their walls. Almost everyone with the money to do so had fled to the west.

Like their co-religionists in Iraq today, the Christians were caught up in a civil insurgency that saw fundamentalist hatreds let loose. 

As in Iraq, the quarrel was not of their making. The issue was Kurdish separatism and the Turkish army's iron-fisted response. 

Anyone "different" was potentially a target for both sides; and old resentments resurfaced that Christians were better-educated and had a rich diaspora in the United States. 

It was the thinnest of times; but the churches not only survived but are now enjoying a revival that could in due course help their Iraqi counterparts. 

Chaldean Church Al-Tahera in Mosul, Iraq

With armed Kurdish insurgency defeated, the Turkish government two years ago began to move towards greater regionalism. 

Its need to reach first base for membership of the European Union has been a key factor. Most encouragingly of all, the region's Muslim communities are lending a hand. 

The process is best seen in Sanliurfa, an important Islamic shrine. Abraham - Ibrahim to Muslims - is said to have lived here and his cave attracts permanent devout queues. 

But the city is also crucial in Christian history. As pre-Byzantine Edessa it was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as the official religion, more than 500 years before St Augustine landed in Kent. 

Jesus legendarily corresponded with its king, as the local council goes out of its way to acknowledge. 

Sanliurfa is now promoting what it calls "belief tourism", inviting Muslims, Jews and Christians to come together and share the ancient sites. 

The process is an eastern version of Spain's work in Toledo and Cordoba to create "three faith" centres where divisive myths can be dismantled and real divisions understood. 

And what lessons there are to be learned: how Christians, Jews and Muslims lived as neighbours for centuries under the Caliphate and the extraordinarily cosmopolitan Ottoman empire. 

How Saladdin's strongest allies against the tolerance-wrecking Crusaders were the Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Egyptian Copts. 

This may seem far off and fanciful to the now embattled Christians of Iraq. But it is a stone's throw from their border; it honours the noblest traditions of Islam; and it has deeper and longer-term potential for countering al-Qaida than guns. 

 

Martin Wainwright is the Guardian's Northern editor.


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  8 Comments   Comment

  1. Ahmed Asgher from Bahrain

    Dear Brother Adam

    Assalamu Alaikum

    My remarks are general. There is no air of certainty about them. Besides this has happened in a Muslim country, all be it invaded by Americans and Israelis - therefore as Muslims we should denounce it. Therefore we declare that this is not our way.

    I asked: How can this furher the cause of Islam? You can take it as a question to Muslims who may do or comtemplate doing such acts. OR it could be directed at skeptic who point at Muslims every time such an act happens. In other words, I am asking those skeptics to look for motives before pointing a fingure at us. Indeed at close scrutiny, such an act does not serve our cause, and any Muslim who wants to further the cause of Allah will never do such a thing, except ofcourse when blinded by anger and other such vengeful feelings. and who know what a spritually weak person is capable of under such circumstances.

    Brother Adam, being a Muslims i no guarantee against evil. That is why we are prescribed 5 prayers/day so that we are constantly in a state of vigil. The greater jihad.

    Heaven forbid if i castigate anyone for such an act. We can only assume and 'some of assumption' can be sin. But we do know that there are many Israelis operating in Iraq and given Mossad records, we can be forgiven if we look at them with suspecion. They have the motive, the know how and the reason for doing such vile acts.

    Brother Adam, let us also not forget how muslims attack other Muslims in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan and also during prayer times. Sunnis against Shiites. These acts do not further the cause of Allah whatsoever.

    I am fully aware of the Zionist's dreams and their machinery. Take a look at all my other postings here and you may see my true colour.

    Above all I believe in peace and the unity of Allah. The final judgement is HIS and we should all pray that HE unites us in HIS name. Subhana'Allah = Glory be to HIM, The Ever-Present.

  2. Adam Ibrahim Muhammad from Nigeria

    Brother Ahmed Asgher, how are you so certain that it was the act of muslims? You stated that most (if not all) of the insurgents groups said they had no hands in it, but still you implied otherwise. Please, I implore muslims to stop believing these "Jewish" media for everything. Until I read the lips, and can establish the true identity of any "terrorist" ! ?, I will NEVER castigate my fellow brother. I consider this action and others like it to be perfetrated by the occupiers to further enhanced some of their agendas, which because they are the DUMBS that Allah has made them to be could not see the fruitlessness of such efforts. The truth is ONE and has no second and when the promise of Allah shall come to pass; bagtatan, it shall manifest and then they will know who is the most

    powerfull.

    Abubeker Or is it Abubakr, I'm with you in your arguments.

    Peace to all who had submitted to the will of the Almighty, ALLAH.

  3. Peter from USA

    Thank you for this article. Thank you everyone for your support; it means a lot to me, and validates the efforts I've put forth to fight against anti-Islamic senitment in my own country.

    I think it's important to remember that we worship the same God, and to defile any of his holy places is to show disrespect to all of his holy places. Again, thank you so much. May God bless you all.

  4. Safiulla from India

    This is a disappointing and shameful act and must be condemned. But why such things happen in the Muslim states though sporadic compared to the frequency of occurance in non muslim countries - is the question. Just like this church there are also a lot of other holy mosques being destroyed in Iraq and Palestine the historical Babri Masjid in India is also an example, recently a fundamentalist Jews group has threatened to damage the Al Aqsa mosque in Jeruselem. All these acts are grusome and unacceptable but unfortunately are happening and don't attract a lot of attention, since the event in question has attracted attention I wonder if people think why such events happen. I don't think this would have happened if Iraq was not invaded and the truth is that this is a result of American invasion, bloodshed and hypocrisy. And now that the Americans have shed enough blood and destroyed a country they are doing little to bring back the peace and protect whatever is left over. I hope whoever is responsible understands that such things are wrong and only suit the cheap Americans. I am sure they do not want to stoop down to the level of the Americans.

  5. H.A. from Yathrib

    Whether it is a church, a sinagogue or any place where people worship 1 God must NOT be desecrated. It must be protected and respected.

    The minority Christian population in Iraq must be protected. The American puppet, Alawaii, must do a better job. It seems Saddam had done a better job.

    The American military is too busy protecting the oil field, but completely have forgotten targets that are sensitive. How moronic one can be? This tells you why they are there.

    I've heard that many mosques have been bombed by U.S. army in Iraq and Afganhistan. That's is unacceptable and can't be tolerated.

    Anyways, Muslims must protect the Iraqi Christians or Christians in other countries. That is Islamic.

  6. Brother Islam from East Oakland Ghetto(U.S.of A.)

    Klu Klux Klansmen(christians)have always destroyed and burned African "American" churches down as well as burn and desecrate the "cross"

    (the symbol of western "trinitarian"

    christianity)!!!!!

    When ALLAH(swt)delivered SPAIN to my African(Moors)Muslim forefathers we protected Christian

    churches and guranteed them their rights.

    When the crusaders(pagans and infidels)"captured"

    Jerusalem they destroyed Muslim and Yahud Masjids and Synagouges.

  7. ABUBEKER from USA

    I LIKED THE COMMENTS. THE PLACE OF WORSHIP NEEDS TO BE RESPECTED AND IT IS OBVIOUS TO MUSLIMS TO RESPECT WHERE THE NAME OF THE CREATER RAISED, BUT I DON'T KNOW WHO REALLY DID IT, I DON'T THINK THE WRITER KNOW THAT EITHER. IRAQ BECAME UN-SAFE FOR EVERYBODY IN IRAQ BECAUSE OF INVASION AND SUBSEQUENT OCCUPATION: THAT IS THE POINT!

  8. Ahmed Asgher from Bahrain

    It is shameful to me as a Muslim to hear of attacks against Christian churches in Iraq. Every Muslim should denounce this vile act that serves no one, let alone the cause of Allah.

    How can we claim alegiance to Allah when we attack other faiths, a People of the Book who God chose to honour and give them The Torah and The Injil (The Bible).

    Allah ordered to invite them to HIS way with the best manner and if they dispute, then we must let them be, in peace, for Allah does not like agressors.

    I am also happy that many Islamic groups in Iraq have stated that it was not them who did this vile acts as well as the Iraqi religious leaders denouncing such vicious acts.

    How can this possibly further the cause of Islam?