On Sunday, October 31st, Islamic terrorists set off a car bomb and then took dozens of worshippers hostage at Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in Baghdad. A few hours later, at least fifty-eight people were dead.
Most of the news reports, at least here in the United States, treated it as just another instance of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. It wasn’t, and we shouldn’t permit it to be interpreted that way.
The perpetrators, an al Qaeda affiliate called “The Islamic State in Iraq,” said that Iraqi Christians would be “exterminated” if two Egyptian women, whom they claim are being held captive after converting to Islam, weren’t released.
What Iraqi Christians had to do with any of this is, apart from their being targeted for “extermination,” was far from clear. What was clear is that several hours after the hostage taking began, Iraqi security forces stormed the church, bringing the attack to its lethal conclusion.
What is also clear is that if all you knew about the attack was based on American news sources, you wouldn’t know that Christians were being specifically targeted. As columnist and media critic Terry Mattingly noted, news reports, at least initially, didn’t even identify what kind of Christian church had been attacked.
Even when they named the church, they missed the part about Christians being in the crosshairs. They used words like “standoff” and “hostage crisis” as if they were describing a bank robbery gone sour.
To get a more complete picture of what was going on, my colleagues had to turn to outlets like Germany’s Die Welt and the BBC.
Sadly, I’m not surprised: News outlets here in the United States have done a terrible job at reporting on the persecution of Christians, especially at the hands of Muslims. While Die Welt had no trouble recognizing al Qaeda’s “new terror campaign against [Iraqi] Christians,” the New York Times was busy linking events in Baghdad to the threatened Koran-burning in Florida. Please!
To its credit, the BBC placed what happened at Our Lady of Salvation in the much-needed larger context of the precarious state of Iraqi Christians.
Its Baghdad correspondent, Jim Muir, described the “targeted killings,” the abductions and killings of priests, and the bombings of churches, and even named the various Christian communities in Iraq – something few American outlets would or could do.
The sad truth is that Iraq’s Christians are largely invisible to our media, just as they were to our government’s leaders when they invaded the country. Now, as then, Iraq, was divided into three parts: Kurds, Sunnis and Shias, all of whom are Muslim. The people who have arguably lived there the longest, Chaldean Christians, were at most afterthoughts.
No provision was made for their safety, never mind their status, in post-Saddam Iraq, which increasingly leaves them with a stark choice: emigration or death. So, as Muir noted, they are leaving, but not before their Muslim neighbors inflict more death and suffering on the Christians.
From an American perspective, you might call it “out of sight, out of mind,” but, then, we never really saw them in the first place.