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August 28, 2007


Altar_cloth2 As some of you know, I just returned from a two-week interviewing trip to Rwanda. While there, one of the places I visited is a church in Nyamata where thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered while seeking refuge during the ’94 genocide. Our guide, a woman who lost all her children and her husband in that church, seemed to be among the walking dead, her eyes vacant and glassy. She pointed out the blood-soaked altar cloth and the stains from where babies’ skulls were smashed against the wall.

Descending down a narrow corridor, we followed her blindly into what turned out to be a basement crypt lined with shelves upon shelves of skulls of those slaughtered there. The sights--now 13 years removed from their realities--left me nauseous, light-headed, and in tears. It is a picture of the ultimate betrayal and one that will not soon be erased from my memory.

Then today, I read Nina Shea’s Monday Washington Post article on the plight of Christians and other non-Muslims in Iraq. Beheadings, bombings, burning in acid--these are just a few of the grotesque punishments inflicted on this group that makes up just 4% of the population in Iraq and 40% of the fleeing refugees. Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds may disagree on a lot, but they find agreement in one area: inflicting pain on the Christian minority. While the situation in Iraq is not purely analogous to the one I saw in Rwanda, I can’t help but feel that to ignore the plight of the Iraqi Christians is similar to the actions of the Rwandan priests who allowed killers to come in and slaughter their congregations. Whatever our opinion on the rightness or wrongness of the war in Iraq, the truth remains that without policies put into effect to protect these Christian and non-Muslim minorities, a too-early withdrawal may leave the blood of these men and women on our hands.

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