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The Last Gasp of the Cradle Christians?

  • Chris Seiple
  • June 9, 2015

Next Step Re Iraq & ISIS: Declare & Defend the Nineveh Plain as Safe Haven for Sunnis, Christians, and Yazidis

It seems that the situation in Iraq and Syria will get worse, before it gets worse. It also seems that there is no strategic coherence to the plans being offered by any government, or political party. Meanwhile, we can’t do something just to do something, mindful of unintended consequences. So what to do? Below is my best effort to suggest something that is practical, needed, and limited…something that sets a different pattern of engagement…while allowing for the fluidity of the larger issues. It means creating a safe haven…that is, drawing a “red line” around the Nineveh Plain (as the Americans did around the capital of Kurdistan, Erbil, last August)…which would also delegitimize “da’esh” (ISIS) momentum, and identity, by taking land back. Voltaire once said: “If you have two religions in your land, the two will cut each other’s throats; but if you have thirty religions, they will dwell in peace.” A Nineveh safe haven begins to contain Da’esh while preserving the key to long-term stability: the chance for people of irreconcilable theological beliefs to live with their deepest differences. An initial safe have is not only in everyone’s self-interest. It is the right thing to do. I have written the below as a Christian, for a Christian audience in America; but the plan suggested is for all faiths and none, grounded in geo-political reality. I realize how sensitive these issues are. My goal in writing this piece is simply to present something that is coherent, and thus catalyze a meaningful conversation about what we can actually do regarding this metastasizing global threat that demands a multi-regional strategy, varying locally. We have to start somewhere and I believe that place is the Nineveh Plain. I welcome your feedback.


“Tell them that we Christians exist. We are the bridge between East and West,” said Felomain Nassar-Batshone, program manager, at International Orthodox Christian Charities, Amman, Jordan.

The story never changes. Whenever ISIS terrorists approach an Iraqi or Syrian village, Christians are given a fateful choice: They can stay and pay a tax to ISIS. They can convert to Islam. They can be martyred as Christians. Or, they flee.

(For the full article, please see ChristianityToday were the op-ed was published on 8 June 2015.)

About Chris Seiple

Chris Seiple is Principal Advisor for Templeton Religion Trust’s Covenantal Pluralism Initiative, and President Emeritus of the Institute for Global Engagement. He is widely known and sought after for his decades of experience and expertise regarding issues at the intersection of geopolitics, US foreign policy, Asia, conflict resolution, human rights, and religion. He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University. His books include The Routledge Handbook of Religious Literacy, Pluralism, and Global Engagement (Routledge 2023), co-edited with Dennis R. Hoover.

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