Iraq

Anarchy and massacre

One of the BBC reports on the October massacre in a Iraqi Catholic church set me thinking on two counts. I’ve already given a few thoughts on the dilemma Christians face of staying or leaving Iraq, so now I want to pick up a completely separate quote from the same article. Ignatius Metti Metok, who believes Christians should stay in Iraq, commented:

Before the change of regime seven years ago, we didn’t have massacres like this.

I recently heard a Mark Dever sermon entitled Jesus paid taxes, and he made the point that any government is better than anarchy, because it reflects God’s authority and justice, even if only poorly. There are many reasons why Saddam Hussein’s government was not ideal, but it was government. Maybe not good government, but government nonetheless. It was raised up by God for the good of the Iraqi people. Now Iraq is in the unenviable position of having recently set the world record for the longest period of time to form a government, and it was during this period that the infamous attack occurred.

I wonder how often Christians are thankful for the governing authorities there are over us, especially when they do things we disagree with? They may not support the spread of the gospel, they may even try to curb it, but they are a sign of God’s mercy in giving us some degree of order.

An interesting point that Dever raised in his sermon was that the government both Jesus and Paul commanded civil obedience to was the same Roman empire that killed both the Messiah and the majority of the apostles, then persecuted Christians for centuries. If this authority is to be obeyed as stewards of God’s authority, what government isn’t?

To be killed or to be alive?

One of the BBC reports on the October massacre in a Iraqi Catholic church set me thinking on two counts. I’ll come onto the second later this week, but for now I want to focus on the differing perspective of two Iraqi Christian leaders, one in Iraq and one who has moved to the UK. I essentially know nothing about either of them, and I’m certainly not in a position to comment on their standing before God, but I did think their differences were interesting.

A senior Iraqi cleric in London, Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, called on Iraqi Christians to flee the country because it was so dangerous. “If we stay, they will kill us,” he told the BBC after addressing a congregation of Iraqi Orthodox Christians at a service in London. “Which is better, to flee or to stay? To be killed or to be alive? But when I say ‘leave’, my heart is injured inside.”

Here the concern was physical safety. Clearly the decision to leave his own country and his own people was a painful one, but Archbishop Dawood felt it necessary. Much as he wanted to stay, the desire to be alive was stronger.

Compare and contrast.

In Baghdad itself, both Church leaders and Christian politicians seemed unanimous in urging their communities to stay. … “We have to stay here, whatever the sacrifices, to bear witness to our faith.”

Doubtless Ignatius Metti Metok, the Syriac Catholic Bishop of Baghdad, also wants to live. Doubtless he also wants to be safe. But more important than his safety is his witness to his faith. He answers Archbishop Dawood’s question – it is better to stay. To potentially be killed. To bear witness to his faith.

I’ve never lived anywhere like Iraq. I’m supremely unqualified to pass judgement on the decisions of any Iraqi Christians to stay or leave the country as I can’t imagine the strength of conflicting emotion there must be in such a choice. But I do find it an interesting contrast of priorities.