Despite being threatened with extinction by ISIS on a daily basis, Iraqi Christians are standing up for themselves and their faith in a huge way!
A group of Christians have just formed their own militia known as the “Babylon Brigade” and according to the BBC their leader says “they were left with no choice but to take up arms when IS fighters targeted Christians.”
We are in the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraq Christian Resistance, Babylon Brigade. They are a militia, although they prefer the phrase popular mobilisation unit. Whatever the language, about 30 of these outfits have sprung up in the past couple of years and between them they have 100,000 armed volunteers. They were formed to block the advance of the so-called Islamic State group when it swept through north and west Iraq in 2014, even threatening Baghdad. When the Iraqi national army collapsed the militias stood firm.
Most are Shia Muslim. A handful are Sunni Muslim, one is Christian – the Babylon Brigade.
The other pictures on the wall are photographs, all depicting the Babylon Brigade’s leader and the man I have come to meet, Rayan al-Kildani. Kildani in military fatigues, Kildani with shades, Kildani meeting some important people, Kildani looking contemplative, Kildani looking determined.
And then the man himself arrives with a small entourage, most of them in suits but one young man with a wispy beard is in military clothing.
I’m not sure how seriously to take Kildani. The militias have persuaded the central government to cover their expenses and as a result they are, taken altogether, receiving about $1.4bn (£1bn) a year. For a militia leader like Kildani it’s more than $600 (£450) per man per month. Good money. There are stories about people renting a house in Baghdad, gathering a few people together, announcing they have formed a militia and going to the government to apply for the funds.
“How many men have you got?” I ask.
“That’s a military secret,” he says.
Really? I saw another man from the militias the day before and he was quite open about numbers. I’d been a little surprised when that militiaman apologised for his English saying it should have been better given that he was from Wembley in North London.
“So, a Christian militia,” I remark.
“What Islamic State was doing to the Christians is terrible,” he says. “They are the devil.”
“Your militia has fought?”
“We fight side by side with the Muslim militias,” he says, claiming: “We are the first Christian power in Iraqi history.”
And then: “I know the Bible says that if you get hit on one cheek you should offer the other. But we have really good defence forces now. No-one is going to do anything bad to the Christians. Some Christians had their homes taken over. I have personally been to those houses to tell the new people living there to get out. Christian suffering is over.”
Here’s a report on the violence against Christians in Iraq:
Should the United States be doing more to protect Christians in Iraq and all over the Middle East from being slaughtered at the hands of ISIS? Share your thoughts below!