After we rode out of Alqosh, I thought about something that had disturbed me back in the town. The local Bishop had been very hospitable, offering us tea and soda in his sitting room, a now familiar routine. He told us about the church in the region and offered some humorous advice. "Never become a Bishop" he said, "When I was just a priest I could do what I wanted, but now that I am a Bishop I cannot." At one point, his excellency was asked about Protestant missionaries who try to convert the Chaldeans. At this question, the bishop became visibly angry, and denounced the people who try to convert his flock. The bishop's anger is completely understandable, the last thing that Christians in the Middle East need is division. However, I found the next thing the bishop said to be disturbing. He said that to apostatize was to betray ones' people. This sounded to me like a general condemnation of conversions, not only of "sheep stealing" by Protestants, but evangelism by anyone. I asked a learned expat about this as our bus rolled away from Alqosh. He offered a disquieting and I believe correct, theory.
The Chaldean bishop condemns conversion because if any Muslims in the area were to convert to Christianity, all the Christians in Alqosh would be at risk. Apostasy is punished by death in Islamic law and Kurdish attacks on Alqosh have happened before. Islamic attacks on Alqosh occurred until as as late as 1969. Christians in the Middle East are in a very difficult position. Ours is an evangelical faith. We are supposed to preach the Gospel to non-Christians, but if the Chaldeans were to try, they would get killed.