By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Islamic State militants
February 10, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) --Hundreds of Christians in Iraq are taking up arms and training to fight against Islamic State forces and reclaim their towns, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Mark Arabo, a San Diego-based pokesman for Iraqi Chaldean Americans, praised the efforts. “We applaud the willingness of these brave Christians to take arms in the fight to reclaim their homes,” he says. “We have gone too long with no representation, no voice, and no place ot clal our own. The most violent acts of ISIL only reiterate the importance of rooting out these heinous and evil individuals. If the means by which one could do this is through military training, then we stand firmly behind these efforts.”
The training is taking place on a former U.S. military basis in northern Iraq, offered by the Kurds outside Kirkuk where Americans once trained Kurdish regional guards.
While many support efforts to arm and train Christians to fight Islamic jihadists, Patriarch Louis Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, disapproves of the effort, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Over 2,000 men have signed up to fight, according to the Journal. They are receiving training from American volunteers and the funds have come from donations thus far, because the U.S. government has reportedly sought to avoid the appearance of fueling a religious war. But it is unclear whether there will be adequate resourcs, arms and training for the long term.
ISIL has displaced 150,000 Iraqi Christians from their homes. The Islamic State militants have been ruthless in demanding that Christians flee their homes or convert to Islam. Many Christians have been tortured or murdered; young girls have been captured and sold as slaves or child brides to ISIL fighters.
Before ISIL, Christians in Iraq did not receive the resources to form an armed militia, but that’s changing.
The National Defense Authorization Act passed in December lists local security forces in Iraq as potential recipients of up to $1.6 billion for training and equipping local forces committed to protecting ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq’s Ninevah plain and fighting the Islamic state.
Yanadam Kanna is a parliamentarian with the Assyrian Democratic Movement, a political party heading up training, for now. “This is a fight to take back and come back to our land,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Kanna concludes, “It’s as though our roots of thousands of years have been pulled out of the ground.”