He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.
For the first time in the history of Iraq there are no Christians in Mosul. A community which has been there for 1800 years has been dispersed by Islamic terror. Christians were, as so often in the history of the region, given three choices: convert, pay a heavy tax or be killed; most have left. Upon the walls of the houses in Mosul, the Islamic symbol for ‘N’ (Nazarene) has appeared, (see the picture at the top of the piece) used, just as the Star of David was by the Nazis, as a sign that this place can be looted and its people attacked. The forces of ISIS have confiscated more than thirty churches, burning down one which goes back to antiquity. There were no twenty four hour news channels when the forces of Mohammed swept through the region in the seventh and eighth centuries, but even his forces were not this brutal. Across the whole of the Middle East, Christian communities as old as any that exist in the world are being exterminated. And what, one might (as Damian Thompson has) ask, is our Government or the US one doing about it? Nothing. In the meantime, in an irony so crushing as to be unbelievable, the so-called ‘Stop the War’ coalition, is calling for a war against Israel; no, you could not make it up. Whilst Christians are being persecuted, the Left call for the destruction of the one functioning democracy in the region. Condemning, as they do, Blair and Bush, they have learned so little that they wish to complete the work of handing the region over to extremists who actually despise everything Western liberals stand for. Satire is dead.
In Egypt, the Copts, that Church of martyrs, suffers. Those who rejoiced when Mubarak fell paid no heed to the fact that this was bound to mean more persecution for the Christian minority. Those who wanted Assad to fall, paid equally little heed to its effect on the Christian minority there. Those who toppled Saddam did the same. What does it tell us about Islam in the region that it is only under autocratic regimes that the rights of the Christians could be respected and protected? Nothing, as it happens, that the behaviour of ISIS and its supporters have not shown to be correct. Forget talk of diversity and multi-culturalism, these people are not interested in it. The advance of the Jihadis on our civilisation comes in many places but takes similar forms – acts of extreme violence and terror. The effective defeat of the West in Afghanistan and Iraq has emboldened the men of violence, and the continue weakness of our reaction does nothing to dissuade them. This is not ‘Islamophobia’, it is simply stating that the greatest threat to us comes from those professing the faith of Islam.
As they occupy Mosul, ISIS troops takes sledgehammers to tomb of Jonah, remove crosses and statues of Virgin Mary: like the iconoclastic Protestants of the reign of Henry VIII and Cromwell, these men cannot bear the beauty of holiness; their own faith has in it nothing of beauty or true holiness, and like Caliban they destroy anything which reminds them of their ugliness.
Nearly a century ago, western Governments created the modern Middle east from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, a ruin they had embraced. A naive liberal belief in the inevitable triumph of their version of progress led them to create embryonic nation states which defied the existing ties of kinship and confessional allegiance. Now we see it all unravelling before our eyes. For all its inadequacies in our eyes, the old Ottoman Empire kept a sort of piece across this region, and it allowed Christian communities to coexist with Islamic ones. As we, in the West, focus obsessively in this centenary year on the consequences of the Western Front, we might spare a thought for the Middle Eastern one – those are not only still with us, but getting worse daily as the tragedy unfolds. As David Selbourne has put it:
Wearied or sickened by all this? Yes. But it is the fate of the impotent western powers that is being determined by it. For the “jihad” is advancing in Syria to the eastern Mediterranean seaboard, while the muezzin’s call to an increasingly ardent faith grows more insistent throughout the Islamic world.
Selbourne warned Secretary of State Kerry some time ago about the failures, as he saw it, which marked Western policy:
the failure to recognise the ambition of radical Islam; the failure to condemn the silence of most Muslims at the crimes committed in their names; the failure to respond adequately to the persecution of Christians in many Muslim lands; the failure to grasp the nature of the non-military skills that are being deployed against the non-Muslim world – skills of manoeuvre, skills in deceiving the gullible, skills in making temporary truces in order to gain time (as in Iran); and, perhaps above all, the failure to realise the scale and speed of Islam’s advance.
We see all of these in the lack of reaction from our Governments.
I see neither hope, nor comfort here. Turkey, which was once a centre of Christianity and has long not been so, is, it seems, an example for the rest of the region. Unpalatable though it might be, should Assad go in Syria, then the last place in the region other than Jordan where Christians can live in peace with their Islamic neighbours will be gone. As we in the West worry about the long-term fate of our Faith, in its homeland, it is all but gone. That is a tragedy. Let us pray for our fellow Christians.