(AP/Andrew Medichini)
Pope Francis in Iraq

The Vatican said it invited leaders of Iraq’s “Jewish community” to a meeting with the Pope on Saturday, despite the fact that Muslims violently purged the Jews from the country decades ago. 

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

For the interfaith gathering hosted by Pope Francis during his visit Saturday near the biblical site of Ur in Iraq, the Vatican made it a point of telling journalists that representatives of Iraq’s Jewish community were invited to attend, the Associated Press reported.

The Vatican didn’t bother telling the reporters why none showed up.

The Pope was in Iraq to strengthen its persecuted Christian community, and Vatican officials failed to explain that the Jewish community representatives didn’t come to the gathering because Iraq’s once-thriving and proud Jewish community of 150,000 fled the country decades earlier in the face of massacres, rabid government-sanctioned anti-Semitism, and pogroms.

Only a handful of mostly elderly Jews remain in Iraq today, where for thousands of years Jews had lived peacefully among Arabs. That era ended beginning with World War II when the Iraqi government became allied with Adolf Hitler and pushed the Nazi’s anti-Semitic message to the Iraqi people.

The British conquest of Iraq in 1942 thwarted plans to herd Jews into ghettos set up by the Iraqi Nazi sympathizers. However, the seeds of hate had already been planted as hundreds of Jews were slaughtered in the infamous “Farhud” massacre in 1941.

The anti-Semitic policies of the Iraqi government continued after the war and in the early 1950s Iraqi Jews working as secret agents for Israel helped 120,000 Jews escape to the young Jewish homeland.

Throughout the Middle East, the Jews were chased out of Arab countries like Iraq, Yemen and Syrian, where they had grown and thrived for thousands of years. All three of those countries have been hit hard by civil wars and the terror of the Islamic State, in addition to other Muslim terror groups like Al Qaeda, but with almost no Jews left in those countries, Christians are the terror factions’ chief target.

The Pope himself noted years ago that Christians are being driven from the Middle East. His visit this weekend arrived as Iraq’s once strong Christian community has now been decimated.

According to a 2019 interim study ordered by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and led by Rev. Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro, “Christian persecution” is “at near genocide levels” in the Middle East. According to the report, Iraq’s Christian population was slashed from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 as of 2019.

“Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region,” said the report.