14 Mar 2011
A REPORT highlighting human rights abuses against Christians around the world is to be launched in Glasgow.
The Catholic Church agency, Aid to the Church in Need, estimates that 75% of all religious persecution around the world is directed against Christians.
That equates to around 100,000 people facing persecution.
The hard-hitting report will be launched in Scotland at St Rollox Church of Scotland by Cardinal Keith O’Brien and Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil in Iraq.
Speaking ahead of the launch yesterday Nather Eisa told how he was forced to flee to Scotland from Iraq with his family.
If I was rich and a Christian, they would come to my house during the night and steal everything
Mr Eisa, 46, a trained teacher, told how he was called a “little Christian rag” and received a death threat. His life was spared when his brother agreed to pay a bribe.
For the father-of-two it was one of many abuses that persuaded him to flee to London in 2002. Shortly afterwards he and his family were moved to Sighthill in Glasgow.
He believes he escaped the worst persecution in Iraq that followed the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, and has caused thousands more Christians to flee.
The last Iraqi census in 1987 showed the Christian population at 1.4 million. The Church in Iraq estimates that figure is now as low as 150,000.
“The problem started for Christian people in 1991 when sanctions were imposed by the United Nations,” said Mr Eisa. “Muslim people hated Christian people because America and Britain are Christian. They say to us Christians that we make the problems for them, but we say we are the same as them, we suffer the same.”
While the family was still able to attend church at that time, security was heavy with up to 30 armed guards surrounding the church during worship. As people began to suffer financially in the early 1990s, Christians began their exodus from the larger cities.
Mr Eisa’s wife Aseel explained: “If I was rich and a Christian, they would come to my house during the night and steal everything. If you say anything you get killed. That’s happened for a few families.
“Now they kill people simply because they are Christian, they say it to your face.”
She said today Christians are too afraid to go into the city of Mosul. Her sister who is a student there has to wear a headscarf to appear Muslim. In the past she said she was shot at when she entered the college with a party of Christian students.
In 2004, another sister was forced from her home in Baghdad. “They took the house from her putting her and her family out – she had to stay with other family members for five years,” said Mrs Eisa.
But while the Eisa family is relieved to have escaped with their lives, they have found themselves at the receiving end of prejudice in this country.
“People here look at us and presume that we are Muslim. Even when we say that we are Christian, they think it is some obscure strand of Christianity,” Mrs Eisa said.
Daughter Lisa, 18, has settled into life here and is studying medicine at a Scottish university. She has little memory of Iraq, and was sheltered from much of the persecution by her parents.
In Glasgow, she attended a Catholic primary school and was struck by the tolerance shown to other religions.
She said: “Coming here, the way they treat people from other religions just makes me feel so proud to be Christian. I feel like that is what my religion teaches me; to love people who are different. That’s why I feel so attached to here, like I belong here.”
“I think people here should be aware that there are Christians in the world that fight to keep their religion – it would make them value their religion more.”