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(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.
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).
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.
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.
By Theodore Shoebat via Vine of Life
The recent events occurring in the Middle East indicate that there is a major movement to dechristianize the land, and that only means one thing: a holocaust will be happening against Christians. The heresy of Islam has been allowed to thrive and death and mayhem will be the only result of it.
Just this month it was reported that a massacre of the entire village of Dweir was executed in Syria, in which jihadists butchered almost all of its forty Christian residers. Two Christians had their bones broken and their flesh burnt with fire before being executed by being shot in the head. After the massacre Syrian soldiers rushed in and a battle commenced.
The al-Nusra Brigade, a wing of Al-Qaeda, is very active in orchestrating terrorism in Syria, and now there is an Iraqi division of Al-Qaeda affirming links with this very group. The fact that Iraqi Muslims are partaking in jihadism signifies the important role which Saddam played in keeping order in the Near East. If he was still in power there would be no Iraqi Muslims engaging in a jihadist revolution, since Saddam would have quickly neutralized them. If the killing of Saddam never occurred, the Iraqi Christians would have never been murdered and forced into exile.
Now with the Syrian revolution ensuing, Syrian Christians will suffer the travails of the Iraqi Christians. Syriac Catholic Bishop Gregoire Melki of Jerusalem had this to say:
We are very anxious when we remember what happened to the Christians in Iraq. We fear the same thing will happen to the Christians in Syria.
Hamas is planning on outlawing all Christian schools in Gaza; five of them exist and there is no doubt that a massacre of those Christians will take place. Father Hijazin said:
We will never accept this even if we have to close the schools
Muhammad denied Christ–the Way, the Truth, the Life–and thus brought about a movement which brings man to confusion and chaos, rejects truth, and embraces death. Another holocaust will happen; it will be no different–if not worse–than the Armenian Genocide.
Theodore Shoebat is the author of the book, For God or For Tyranny
IRAQ- Number 3 on the World Watch List
Iraq In the past 10 years since Saddam Hussein was removed from power in Iraq in 2003, the Christian population has been decimated from approximately 1.3 million to less than 300,000, as believers have been killed or fled the country.
The United Nations have stated that May 2013 saw the worst devastation in the last six years, as Sunni and Shiite groups target one another and Christians, as well. Due to the constant violence and bombings, the capital of Baghdad was recently put into lockdown for an entire week, say church leaders there.
“It was impossible for us to get out and check on our congregation members and for them to get to church,” explained one.
While much of the violence is general, it is clear some attacks are aimed at individual Christians. A Christian in Mosul was the target of two attacks in one week in March – after the first bomb exploded in his house on a Wednesday, a second one was thrown over his fence the following Sunday. Fortunately, the second bomb, wrapped in a black bag and a women’s t-shirt, was deactivated by a military engineering team.
Louis Raphael Sako, the newly elected Chaldean Catholic patriarch of Iraq and Syria, says he is fearful what the future will hold for believers in the region.
“We must stay,” he affirms. “This is our history. This is our patrimony. When we leave everything will leave with us.”
Pray for the Church as it tries to ‘regroup’ after having seen so many Christian leaders and Christians leave for the West.
Pray that the Church will show the way forward and communities will be changed by their loving example.
Please pray for the safety of church leaders and their congregations as they travel to and from church activities and go about their daily lives.
Pray for positive change and peace in the nation of Iraq
Christians in Iraq are are caught in the middle of the Islamic sunni – shia war. They have been abandoned by the west and President Obama has totally neglected their plight after withdrawing troops from the Iraqi War.
We need to stand with them in prayer. The needs of our brothers and sisters in Iraq are great and ongoing. Take a stand on any Sunday this June as we continue to support them!
Iraq has a long Christian heritage dating back to the first century AD, making it one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. But today, Christianity in Iraq is under serious threat.
While the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 may have been a victory for coalition forces, ongoing changes in leadership have been a disaster for Iraqi Christians. Constant threats, terrorist attacks, families being forced to leave their homes and communities with no protection, and a recent spate of kidnappings have all been aimed at demoralizing the already dwindling Christian population. Life has become unbearable.
In 2003, there were more than one million Christians in Iraq. A decade later, only a third of this number remain. This situation is an absolute tragedy for the international Christian community. But the saddest part of all is that most western Christians have no idea this issue exists.
Take action today to Stand Up for Iraqi Christians.
Open Doors invites you to choose any Sunday in June and say ‘enough is enough’. You can support our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq by:
1. PRAYING- specifically for what is happening in Iraq, trusting that God would strengthen the believers there.
2. GIVING- to support placement of Christians who have had to flee their homes and livelihoods because of threats to their lives and families.
3. WRITING- to the Iraqi Ambassador in Australia who gives millions of dollars in aid to Iraq to encourage them to act. We want them to ensure there are better safeguards in place for Christians who want to stay and be a witness in Iraq.
1 Corinthians tells us:
“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” We as Christians have a moral responsibility to speak out against injustice.”