Archbishop: Iraqi Christians face 'premeditated ethnic cleansing'

Life in Iraq isn't easy (and hasn't been for a while), but it's still rare to find community leaders imploring Iraqis to leave their home country. But that's exactly what Archbishop Athanasios Dawood of the Syriac Orthodox Church is doing.

"I say clearly and now -- the Christian people should leave their beloved land of our ancestors and escape the premeditated ethnic cleansing," Dawood said in a prepared statement to CNN. "This is better than having them killed one by one." In other interviews, Dawood, who lives in London, evoked the word "genocide" to describe the treatment of Iraqi Christians.

Fifty-eight people were killed in an attack on an Iraqi church last Sunday.

With the exception of the massive exodus of Iraq's large Jewish minority after the creation of Israel in 1948, there was little sectarian violence in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003.

"You know, everybody hates the Christian. Yes, during Saddam Hussein, we were living in peace -- nobody attacked us. We had human rights, we had protection from the government but now nobody protects us," the archbishop told the BBC. "Since 2003, there has been no protection for Christians. We've lost many people and they've bombed our homes, our churches, monasteries."

Eden Naby and Jamsheed K. Chosky wrote in Foreign Policy last week that there may not be a Christian population left in Iraq by the end of the century. Iran, which also has a (shrinking) Christian minority, is suffering the same fate.

But it isn't only from those countries that Middle Eastern Christians are leaving. Long-time Middle East journalist Robert Fisk pointed out last month (before the massacre in Baghdad) that Christian populations are shrinking across the region, from Palestine to Lebanon to Egypt. "This is, however, not so much a flight of fear, more a chronicle of a death foretold," Fisk writes. "Christians are being outbred by the majority Muslim populations in their countries and they are almost hopelessly divided."

In Michigan, Iraqi Christians rallied today, calling on the United States to put a stop to violence against their coreligionists.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has affected every aspect of society in that country. As many people have written, the U.S. government seems to have been wholly unprepared for what lay ahead in Iraq. It's hard to imagine that George W. Bush, with his own deep Christian faith, expected the catastrophe in store for Iraqi Christians.



Japan does away with 'silly shirt' photo for APEC

Especially after his awkward Bhangra dancing experience in Mumbai, this will probably come as welcome news to President Barack Obama:

Over the years, one of the most memorable moments of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit has been what's come to be called the "silly shirts" photo, often representing the host country's culture.

The 21 APEC leaders have posed for together in Javan batik shirts (Indonesia in 1994), flowing ponchos (Chile in 2004) to Vietnamese "ao dai" -- elegant silken tunics in which several of the leaders were visibly ill at ease -- in 2006.

But this year in Japan, the leaders were instructed to come in "smart casual" for Saturday's photo, said a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

The Japanese official cited the timing for the photo session, which falls between a traditional Kabuki theater perfomance and an official dinner hosted by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, as one possible reason for the relatively staid choice.

The typical tight-fitting traditional kimono is not very comfortable or suitable for a photo session, said another official, though he did not say why.

As a firm supporter of the ritual humiliation of the world's most powerful people, I strongly protest this decision.

A look back at some APEC memories below the jump.

Chile, 2004:

Australia, 2007:

Peru, 2008:

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images; MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images; TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images