|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(the symbol of western "trinitarian"
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.
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?