A great deal is lost to history, culture, and economic development when a country does not protect its minority religions and ethnic groups. Sadly, this is what happened in Iraq when government persecution there drove hundreds of thousands of Jews from the country in the early 1950s.
Speaking at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, U.S. Agency for International Development Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick said Jewish Iraqis were driven from their homes to such an extent that an ancient part of the country’s cultural and religious landscape is now essentially extinct:
“There is no longer a significant Jewish community in Iraq, a land in which some of the most significant Jewish scriptures were originally scribed. There is no longer a significant Jewish community in Iraq, a community that once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, because the Iraqi government terrorized its Jewish population and forced them to flee, not just their homes and businesses, but the country of their birth.”
The persecution of Jews is often a warning sign of more widespread persecution of religious minorities, said Deputy Administrator Glick:
“They’ve been persecuted across the millennia beginning with the Romans and moving into modern times. Today we see anti-Semitism around the world ranging in places from Buenos Aires, Argentina; to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; to Paris, France, and beyond. And if nothing else stands as a witness to what happens when religious intolerance is allowed to run free -- it’s the Jewish experience.”
The world “cannot afford to be silent today as religious communities of Jews, Christians, Yazidis, Muslims, Sikhs, and others are victimized, often by their own fellow citizens,” said Deputy Administrator Glick.
“Thomas Jefferson is often credited with saying that ‘The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.’ That is the hard reality we face today,” said Ms.Glick. “We must remain vigilant.”
Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. “And it is critical for the world,” said Deputy Administrator Glick, “not to be indifferent to the plight of people who are oppressed simply because of their faiths.”