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Ethnic Cleansing: Iran-backed Militia Seize Christian Neighborhoods in Baghdad

By Lisa Daftari

(va AINA) Iran-backed militias have seized homes, businesses and cultural sites, including churches belonging to Baghdad’s Christian communities, forcing individuals to resettle and forfeit all their belongings, according to members of the Christian members of the Iraqi Parliament.The militias have targeted properties belonging to Christians, forcing individuals to leave the area, according to Christian community leaders, including representatives from the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac minorities, as well as the Chaldean Patriarch of Iraq who have condemned the attacks, calling them a form of ethnic cleansing aimed to rid Baghdad of its Christians.

“Their claim is that the property of a non-Christian is halal, meaning it can be seized,” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sacco said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

According to leaders, the seizures have been carried out in the upscale regions of Baghdad, where militia men have forced entry into homes and businesses with falsified documents.

“We are begging, once again, appealing to the conscience of government officials and authorities from Sunni and Shiite states in order to do something meaningful to safeguard the life and dignity and property of all Iraqis, because they are human,” Sacco said.

The news was confirmed by Tom Harb, the co-chair of the Middle East Christian Committee, MECHRIC, who said Middle East Christian NGOs have long been reporting from Baghdad and Erbil that the Iranian-backed militias are pushing the Christians south of the areas controlled by ISIS, including Baghdad.

The paradox in U.S. foreign policy is that the current administration has shown a policy of partnering with Iran’s regime and even releasing the funds to the regime to back these militia, while at the same time creating conditions on the ground in Iraq where they can ethnically cleanse the Christian community, Dr. Walid Phares, who is an advisor to members of the U.S. Congress, said to The Foreign Desk.

In other words, Washington is backing and funding the ethnic cleansing of Christian minorities in Iraq, Phares said.

Iraq’s Christians are considered to be one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, with their villages concentrated in Baghdad, Basra, Erbil and Kirkuk. The Assyrians had made the towns and regions around the Nineveh Plains in the north home, until ISIS forced them out.

In 2014, the Islamic State announced that all Christians under its territories must pay a minority tax, or Jizzyah, of approximately $500 per family, convert to Islam or be put to death. Later, the decree was revoked and Christians no longer had the option of staying and paying a tax. They either had to leave the Caliphate or die.

At that time, Christian homes and properties were marked with the Arabic letter N, or nun, for Nassarah, meaning ‘Christian’ in Arabic.

According to Sacco, there are no Christians left in Mosul for the first time in Iraq’s history.

“In the long run, the U.S. should help establish an autonomous area for the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs in their homeland Nineveh Plains, near Mosul and help the Yazidis establish their own area in Sinjar,” Phares said.

At the same time, Phares recommends Washington demand more from its partner, Iraq, who receives aid, funding and training to evacuate militias, to now protect the empty homes and return Christians to Baghdad.


UPDATE-IRAQ: No Assyrian/Christian Casualties in Iraq Christmas Day Bombings


Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) is reporting that On December 25, 2013 multiple news agencies, including AINA, reported the twin bombings in Dora, a formerly Assyrian [also known as Chaldean and Syriac] and Christian neighborhood in southern Baghdad. One bombing occurred outside of St. John Catholic Church. The explosion killed 27 and wounded 56. A second bomb exploded in an outdoor market, killing 11 and wounding 21.

According to the wire reports, dozens of Christians were killed in the bombings.

AFP quoted a police colonel, saying “The attack targeted the church, and most of the martyrs are Christians. The attack happened when worshippers were leaving the church.”

Reuters quoted a policeman, saying “A car parked near the church exploded when the families were hugging each other goodbye before leaving. The blast was powerful…Bodies of women, girls and men were lying on the ground covered in blood. Others were screaming and crying while they were trying to save some of their wounded relatives.”

The Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, H.H. Louis Sako, issued a statement saying the attack was not directly targeted at the church. Also, Archdeacon Temathius Esha, an Assyrian priest in Dora, told AFP “The church has nothing to do with the attack, the attack was against the market.”

There is no doubt that these bombings occurred and that dozens of persons were killed. But questions were raised about the number of Assyrian/Christian fatalities, beginning with Patriarch Sako’s statement.

AINA contacted two Assyrians in Iraq to ascertain the facts of the case.

According to Pascale Warda, Iraq’s former Minister of Displacement and Migration, no attacks against churches occurred and there were no Christian casualties. “What some media reported was not right because the attack in Dora was in the market, where some other poor people were wounded, but not a single Christian was hurt, and no church was attacked.”

The priest of St. John Catholic Church, Fr. Firas, told Pascale Warda the attack was far from the church and no there were no Assyrian casualties. Fr. Tima, of the Assyrian Church in Dora, also told Mrs. Warda that his church had not been attacked.

The Christmas mass at St. John ended at 9 AM, the attack occurred at 11 AM.

According to Susan Patto, an Assyrian in Baghdad, because of previous church attacks, all churches have discontinued midnight mass and conduct mass very early in the morning, from 7 to 9 AM, and parishioners are discouraged from congregating outside the church after mass.

“The explosion happened after 11 AM.’ says Suan Patto, “There is a police station about 500 meters from St. John, and the car bomb targeted the police station. The church was closed and no one was there. The story about the church being attacked was first reported by Al-Sharqiya news channel and picked up by other news agencies. Most of fatalities were in the second explosion in the market, while the targeted police station had only few casualties. There are no known Assyrian casualties.”

According to Pascale Warda, the news of Christian casualties was propagated by those “who are unhappy with any establishment of security in Iraq.”

The Dora neighborhood was formerly a Christian neighborhood, with over 150,000 Assyrians living there. Beginning in 2004 a sustained series of church bombings, kidnappings and killings by Al-Qaeda affiliated groups forced most the residents to flee, most with literally just the clothes they wore, as they were not allowed to take any of their belongings with them (report). Now there are only about 3000 Assyrians remaining in Dora.

73 churches have been attacked or bombed since June, 2004: 45 in Baghdad, 19 in Mosul, 8 in Kirkuk and 1 in Ramadi.

On October 31, 2010 Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked Our Lady of Deliverance Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday evening during a church service. When police raided the church the terrorists set fire to their explosives, ultimately killing 58 parishioners, including two priests (reports, pictures).


Christians Not Target of Baghdad Bombings, Iraqi Officials Say


(Morning Star News) – Government and church officials in Iraq refuted initial claims by police that bombs in southern Baghdad targeted Christians, saying no worshippers leaving a nearby church were hurt.

A car bomb that went off near St. John Catholic Church in the Doura area of Baghdad on Dec. 25 as worshippers were leaving Mass targeted a market, not the church, according to Interior Minister spokesman Saad Maan. News portal RT reported that Iraqi Chaldean Catholic Church Bishop Louis Sako also said the church was not the target, and that none of the departing worshippers were injured.

Police had initially reported that the blast killed 27 worshippers after the Christmas Day service, and that another bomb detonated in a market in the city’s Christian area left 11 people dead, according to press reports. RT reported that the church attack did take place in a Christian area and that most of the 26 people killed were Christians.

Two other roadside bombs in an outdoor market in the Doura area did kill 11 people and wounded 21 others, according to RT, noting that Maan’s statement contained the conflicting information that those blasts killed 35 people and injured 56 others.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad condemned the violence, according to CNN, saying in a statement that Christians in Iraq have suffered terrorist attacks for many years, along with other Iraqis.

“The United States abhors all such attacks and is committed to its partnership with the Government of Iraq to combat the scourge of terrorism,” according to the statement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni Muslim extremists from Al Qaeda have targeted Iraqis Christians, according to Reuters. Two Christian security guards were wounded in a June 25 church attack in Baghdad, and in 2010 an Islamic extremist attack on Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church in the city killed 58 people.

Thousands of members of religious minorities have fled the country in the past 10 years, with the Christian population dropping from about 1.4 million to fewer than 500,000 today.

Morning Star News

Jewish group condemns attack on Iraqi Christians-West must lead in protecting Christians


Jewish human rights group on Thursday condemned Christmas Day attacks on Christians in Baghdad that left at least 37 people dead.

At least 37 people were killed in bomb attacks in Christian areas of Baghdad on Christmas and dozens of other injured, some by a car bomb near a church after a service.

“That these religious celebrations in Iraq turned into carnage was entirely predictable as Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorists have labeled Iraqi Christians as heretics,” charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Center. “Indeed, Iraqi security forces were posted at churches, whose worshippers braved the threat of death to mark the holiest day on their calendar. We call on the United States and the EU to take the lead in committing to protect religious minorities wherever they dwell. The civilized world’s overwhelming silence and inaction only guarantees more innocent victims in 2014,” Cooper continued.

“While the year 2013 has seen a gradual descent into hell for an Iraq under siege by Islamists,” observed Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Center’s Director of Interfaith Affairs. “It has meant slipping into the seventh circle for Christians, whose ranks have already been decimated by years of sustained attacks against its historic Christian communities. The world must recognize that the unfettered suppression of religious minorities in Iraq – and Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria – continues to grow. It will spill over to other countries unless the world moves to make the safeguarding of religious expression a core policy goal. The trampling of this fundamental human right devalues all of civilization – believer and atheist alike.”

Earlier this year, during a private Simon Wiesenthal Center audience with Pope Francis, Center dean and founder Rabbi Marvin Hier told the Pope that he has an ally in his efforts to protect persecuted religious minorities, including endangered Christian communities.

For more information, please contact the Center’s Public Relations Department,
310-553-9036, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

Simon Wiesenthal Center


VIDEO reports: Iraq bombings target Christians on Christmas

At least 34 people died in bomb attacks in Christian areas on Wednesday.



Iraqi Christians Struggle For Survival


For centuries, Iraq has been home to a small but thriving community of Christians. Speaking the same Arabic language as their Muslim neighbours, they can be found in nearly every Iraqi city, and have traditionally prospered as doctors, teachers and academics.

But ten years on the fall of Saddam Hussein, their numbers have dwindled from more than a million to as little as 200,000. Churches have been bombed by Islamic extremists, while the prosperity that the Christian community was seen to enjoy has seen them frequently targeted by kidnappers.

Altogether, 62 churches have been attacked in the decade, and around 1,000 Christians have been killed, according to senior Iraqi churchmen. They have warned that a time may come when there are no longer any Christians in Iraq at all.

In this special report from Baghdad, Telegraph correspondent Colin Freeman and cameraman Julian Simmonds report on new efforts to stem the Christian exodus.

The Telegraph

Northern Iraq No Longer Safe For Christians


An increase in violence against Christians in northern Iraq has increased the flow of Christians leaving the country.

The north, generally considered a relatively safe area of the country, had become home for many Christians fleeing from the tumultuous central and southern regions.

However, several bombings in the north in recent months have caused panic among the Christian community.

On September 22, a suicide bomb went off outside the home of Christian politician Emad Youhanna in Rafigayn, part of the Kirkuk province, injuring 19 people, including three of Youhanna’s children.

Several bomb attacks have also taken place in the northern city of Erbil, for which Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.

In early September, Christians in the village of Deshtakh complained that they were facing harassment from local police.

A group of Christian young people said that policemen told them that they “should not be in Iraq because it is Muslim territory”.

Violence in the south of the country is also escalating. Church leaders in Baghdad say that there are attacks on Christians every two or three days.

A spokesperson for Open Doors, a Christian charity which supports Christians under pressure for their faith, said that although many Christians are still choosing to stay, the fear is that if the violence continues, they may decide they have little choice but to leave.

“It remains urgent to pray for the future of Christianity in this country,” he said. “If the present trend continues, there might be no Christian left in the whole of Iraq by 2020.”

Some commentators look back to December 2011 as a turning point for Christians in Iraq, following a number of attacks on Christian-owned shops.

Since that time, the violence against Christians in the Kurdish north has increased, with Christians being kidnapped and killed in an area once considered relatively safe.

In March 2012, an American teacher was killed in Sulaymaniyah, which provided another shock for the Christian community.

Meanwhile, the local Kurdish government has discussed ways to monitor Christian activities and accused many English teachers from the West of being Christian missionaries. It is now much harder for Westerners to receive work permits in the country.

Christians in Iraq are a clearly identifiable group. Many wear crosses or have Christian symbols on the gates of their homes.

Iraq is No. 4 on the World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries in which Christians are most under pressure for their faith.

Christians in Iraq are on the verge of extinction. Large numbers of persecuted Christians have fled abroad or to the (until recently) safer Kurdish region, where they face unemployment and inadequate schooling, medical care and housing. The church faces many challenges – members being killed or abducted, and a lack of capable leaders,”

reports the World Watch List.

Persecution News Weekly Update – January 28 2013

American Pastor Saeed Sentenced in Iran

Hell on Earth: Inside Iran’s brutal Evin prison

(FoxNews)- It is known as Evin University, but it’s no school — it is one of the  world’s most brutal and infamous prisons. And barring intervention by Iran’s  religious leaders, it could be the home of American citizen and Christian Pastor  Saeed Abedini for the next eight years. Beatings, torture, mock executions and brutal interrogations are the norm at  Evin prison, where for four decades the anguished cries of prisoners have been  swallowed up by the drab walls of the low-slung lockup in northwestern Tehran.

Standing at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, it is home to an estimated 15,000  inmates, including killers, thieves and rapists. But the prison has also held  ayatollahs, journalists, intellectuals and dissidents over the years, and few if  any who have survived time in Evin could be surprised by claims of torture and  abuse made by Abedini’s supporters. Video/Full Article 

Pakistan Supreme Court confirms decision to drop blasphemy case

Pakistan Supreme Court confirms decision to drop blasphemy case- Rimsha Masih now free; lawyers say she always will be at risk in Pakistan. Praise the Lord for the decision and keep praying for Rimsha’s safety! Read more

Egyptian court sentences Christian family to 15 years for converting from Islam

ACLJquote(FoxNews)-A criminal court  in the central Egyptian city of Beni Suef  sentenced a mother and her seven children to prison terms of 15 years for converting to Christianity. Read more

U.S. urged to aid Egyptian family facing prison for converting to Christianity

(FoxNews)Supporters of an Egyptian woman sentenced with her seven children to 15 years in  prison for converting to Christianity say the U.S. government must do more to  stick up for her and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Read more

Despite severe persecution, a Historic Christian Revival is taking place in Iran!

Joel Richardson claims daily stories of miracles, supernatural encounters, transformed lives, and baptisms, are reported on a magnificent scale. More Iranians have come to Christ in the past 30 years than in the prior 1400 years combined! The 2013 Operation World prayer manual lists the growth of Christianity in Iran as leading the entire world with approx. 20% annual growth. This means that believers in Jesus Christ in Iran is doubling every four years. Imagine the changes to the region if this revival continues! Read more

A Story Of Persecution From Saudi Arabia

(Open Doors)- Rashid* is a Saudi Arabian student who attended a Western university and surrendered his life to Christ after his roommate shared the gospel with him. Excited about his newfound faith, Rashid returned home and shared the good news of Jesus… with his loved ones. But he chose a public venue to tell one relative about his decision. A bystander reported Rashid to Saudi religious police, who threw him into jail.
Rashid’s cell mate, Tareq*, kept staring at him. At last Tareq spoke: “You’re the man I’m supposed to talk to.” But Rashid shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’ve been just thrown in jail for my belief in Jesus.” Tareq, however, pleaded with Rashid: “In my dreams a man was shown to me. It was your face. You have something to tell me.” So Rashid shared the gospel with Tareq, who eagerly received Jesus into his heart.
Saudi Arabia is ranked #2 on the World Watch List. Source

Gao Zhisheng, in jail for seeking justice

(AsiaNews.it)Before his conversion to Christianity, Gao was one of the “10 best lawyers in China”: his decision to help others – for free and always within the national legislature – prompted the government to stop him, trying delete him from the scene. During his career he has defended unofficial Christians, members of Falun Gong and Tibetan Buddhists. Read more

Iraqi Kurdistan: A Safe Haven for Christians?


A surge in violence against the Christian community has provoked a mass exodus Photo: AP

(Alan Wisdom)- Iraq’s Christian population has been the target of violence for several years. The Christian community in Iraq has suffered great loss in the decade since the U.S. invasion of 2003. Is there a ray of hope now that Iraq’s Assyrian, Chaldean, Armenian, and other Christians can find a secure future in the Kurdistan region? This was the possibility contemplated at a December 5 conference sponsored by Catholic University in Washington, DC.
Since 2003, Iraqi Christian homes, businesses, and churches have been targets of repeated violent attacks-bombings, shootings, kidnappings, arsons-perpetrated by militias aligned with other religious and ethnic groups. The central government has often been unwilling or unable to provide effective protection. Although other Iraqis may identify the Christians with the United States and its western allies, in fact the Christians have gained little from the now fading U.S. presence. Many have fled the country. Most estimates now place Iraq’s Christian population at less than half of the million-plus that it was in 2003.
Traumatized Christians have also relocated within the country. The predominant flow of refugees has been away from the violence of central and southern Iraq and toward Kurdistan in the north, which had been the historic heartland of the ancient Mesopotamian Christian communities. There the refugees have encountered a somewhat better situation, although not without immediate problems and long-term uncertainties. The questions engaged at the December 5 conference were: To what extent should Iraqi Christians tie their fate to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and support it against the federal government in Baghdad? Should they seek a Christian-friendly enclave in or near Iraqi Kurdistan, or should they aim to integrate themselves into the broader Iraqi or Kurdish society? Or will emigration abroad be their only option in the end? Read more

Syrian women brave 13 checkpoints to attend School of Prayer

“The Syrian ladies bravely took a step of faith to come as they didn’t want to miss the School,” said Ester, the conference leader. “They had to go through 13 checkpoints to get here. At the border they had to wait for a long time and faced many questions.” The conference hosts had hoped that nine Syrian women would come, but in the end, due to the worsening situation in Syria, just four courageous women were able to attend. The purpose of the event was to study prayer and intercession and to equip women to make prayer an integral part of their outreach to unreached women.


Syrian Christian women holding Bible, praying together

“God handpicked every woman who was meant to be there!” Ester said. “They were like sponges, absorbing the teaching very well. All the women faithfully and persistently followed the tough schedule of eleven lessons in two days. They also fasted together on the second day. The Syrian ladies said it is worth it to come all the way to be part of the School! Ten ladies responded to the call to be intercessors. They felt that this is what God wants them to be—intercessors who will stand in the gap for their land.” Read their story here

Freedom under threat: Christians in Iran continue to be persecuted by the regime

Together with Joe Benton, Labour MP for Bootle, I visited Turkey in August as guest of Elam Ministries. Elam is a well-resourced, UK-based charity which supports Iranian Christians.

Our visit contributed evidence for the Christians in Parliament report on the persecution of Christians in Iran, published subsequently in October. Iran has a population of 74 million. Nobody knows how many are Christians, but the number appears to be growing fast. Some think it could be as high as 1.5 million. But, along with other religious minorities such as Baha’i, Christians in Iran face severe persecution. We visited Istanbul, where there is a lively Iranian church, and visiting Iranians are offered New Testaments. The people involved told us they are hardly ever refused, and many Iranians are keen to discuss what the New Testament says.

Deep disillusion is common with the version of Islam proclaimed by their own government, and the experience of living under a regime which adheres to it.

We also visited Kayseri, a big and modern Turkish city of around a million people, with an ancient fortress at its centre. In the winter it is a popular ski resort. We visited an Iranian church there, one of numerous churches of Iranian exiles across Turkey. It meets in a modest flat at the top of a low rise block above shops. Read more

Remember The War In Syria?

The Christians are in the most precarious position. There are Christian enclaves but they are scattered around the country and many have been overrun by opposition or government forces.

Elements in the opposition forces have desecrated and burnt churches in the northern half of Syria. Priests have been murdered,  and Christian civilians forced to flee, just as thousands of others have fled in the face of government forces. There is now a slow exodus of Christians which may become a flood if the Islamist side of the opposition to Mr Assad becomes the dominant force in Syria. The aftermath of the Iraq war saw 400,000 Iraqi Christians forced from the country and a similar fate may await their co-religionists in Syria. Read more

Priest requests prayer for Kenya

Al-Shabab (militant terrorist group) has continued its violent insurgency targeting mainly Christians and security personnel.  The Reverend Canon Francis Omondi said: “The targeting of Christians and security personnel is a very worrying trend. Christians should pray for courage in the midst of these pressures.”

He has been championing health and education issues in the region for more than 25 years. He has also been helping grow the church of God within the region. However, he has been taken aback by the recent attacks on Christians. “The Muslim fundamentalists have no respect for denomination,” he said. “They aim to rid Christians from here [along with] the security forces. As a result of this Christians who have not fled live in great fear”.

Canon Omondi reminded Christians around the world about their responsibility during such times of strife and violence. He said:

“Christians around the world ought to pray for us urgently! We need God to change our situation.”

Full story here

Boko Haram Kills 23 People in Nigeria for ‘Disobeying’ Sharia Law

Islamic terrorists suspected to be from the Boko Haram group have  launched another wave of attacks in Nigeria, killing at least 23 people who they  deemed to have been breaking Sharia Law. The two separate attacks occurred on Monday and Tuesday in north-east  Nigeria, and targeted people selling pork, which Muslims are forbidden to eat,  and a group engaged in gambling, which is also against Islamic law, BBC News reported.

Boko Haram has made it their mission to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state  and drive out the nation’s Christians, who make up half of the country’s  population, by any means necessary. In the last few years they have bombed  churches, killed pastors and gunned down close to 1,400 people since 2010. Read more

For Vietnamese Catholics, government using Pope to cover up Religious Persecution

(ICC) The General Secretary of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, visited Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Tuesday in what Christians inside Vietnam are calling an attempt to cover over religious repression in the country. The visit was censored and unpublished in Vietnamese news outlets even though the rest of the Vietnamese government’s official visit to Italy was reported. Catholics point out that a string of recent incidents and a new religion law indicate that religious freedom and persecution is only growing worse in this Communist nation. Read more

East Turkestan: China Denies Family Visits To Jailed Uyghur Pastor

Chinese authorities restrict the family of a Uyghur sentenced for ‘revealing state secrets’ to visits every three months. Authorities in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang have denied permission for the family of a jailed Christian Uyghur to visit him, according to the man’s wife.Gulnur, the wife of 40-year-old Uyghur pastor Alimjan Himit (also known in Chinese as Alimujiang Yimiti), who is currently serving a 15-year jail term on spying charges, was turned away by prison guards after she traveled to the jail to visit him on Wednesday, 23 January.
“I have just been over there, but I wasn’t able to see him,” she said. “I am on my way home right now.” She said the prison authorities had limited her to one visit every three months. “They told me to visit once every three months, and to come back next month,” Gulnur said. “I feel so sad about this, because I thought things were getting a bit better.” Gulnur said she thought the restrictions on visits could be linked to Alimjan Himit’s insistence on continuing with the appeals process. “I still want him to appeal,” she said. “I think he could win.” Alimjan Himit was sentenced by a court in Kashgar to a 15-year jail term for allegedly “providing state secrets to overseas organisations” on Oct. 27, 2009. Gulnur said her last visit to her husband in November lasted just 15 minutes. Read more

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