From time to time, we receive emails from people concerned about a lack of mainstream media coverage of the persecution of the ancient churches inside Iraq, an already tragic situation that is getting worse as Iraq begins to fly apart into competing Islamic states, or tribes, or whatever. This is, of course, part of a wider story in the region -- as I learned during my recent visit to Istanbul. However, this morning I was reading my usual newspapers on the train when I ran into two paragraphs in The Washington Times that added yet another stunning angle to this story. This is one of those situations where I knew something was happening -- at the head level -- but the bare facts in the newspaper still hit home.
The story by veteran religion writer Julia Duin, a friend of this blog, focuses on yet another hearing by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Sadly, hearings of this kind take place all the time and, thus, this rather short story was located on an inside page. Here's the lede:
Iraq's outnumbered Christians and other religious minority groups are targets of a terror campaign and are facing a dire situation where killings and rapes have become the norm, a panel of witnesses testified yesterday on Capitol Hill.
But here are the two paragraphs that snuck up on me. The quote is from the Rev. Canon Andrew White, vicar of St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad:
Iraq's eight remaining Jews, now hiding in Baghdad, are "the oldest Jewish community in the world," he said, referring to the 597 B.C. Babylonian conquest of ancient Judah that brought the Jews to the region as captives.
"The international community has done nothing to help these people," Mr. White said, explaining that the group is trying to emigrate to an Iraqi Jewish enclave in the Netherlands, which won't admit them.
Here's the question that popped into my mind: Which is more surprising, that there are only eight Jews left in Iraq or that officials in the Netherlands will not grant them asylum?
Have I missed it, or has there been extensive coverage of this issue? There will, of course, be headlines when the last Jews are killed or exiled against their will. I think.
Photo: The synagogue in Baghdad.