*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Christians ‘see no future in Iraq’

by
11 November 2010

by Gerald Butt Middle East Correspondent

A SERIES of attacks on predomin­antly Christian districts of Baghdad on Wednesday morning killed at least three people and wounded up to 30. During the previous evening, three people were wounded when bombs exploded outside the homes of Christians.

The attacks came ten days after the siege at the Sayyidat al-Najat (Lady of our Salvation) Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad, when suicide-bombers held the congrega­tion hostage. More than 50 people were killed, and many more wounded when security forces stormed the church (News, 5 November).

The intensification of violence directed against Christians, believed to be the work of the al-Qaeda-backed group Islamic State of Iraq, raises concerns that a co-ordinated campaign by militants has begun to intimidate the remaining members of the already-diminishing Chris­tian community into fleeing. Secur­ity at churches has been increased, but protecting whole neighbour­hoods is much more of a challenge.

Iraqi officials said that six dis­tricts of Baghdad, including Camp Sara, Sinaa Street, and al-Ghadeer, were targeted on Wednesday morn­ing by 14 home-made roadside bombs. A mortar-round was det­onated in Doura.

After the attack on the Sayyidat al-Najat church, the Islamic State of Iraq announced that it now re­garded all Christians in the Middle East as legitimate targets. Canon Andrew White, Chaplain of St George’s, Baghdad, who returned to Iraq after the church violence, said earlier this week that there were “threats from al-Qaeda to attack and kill more Christians — myself in particular. So please pray for our protection.” He also asked for prayers about “the immense fear of Christians. All are so afraid; they need a sense of divine protec­tion.”

Thirty-five Iraqis, including one Muslim, who were wounded in the fighting that ended the church siege, arrived in Paris on Tuesday for treatment. A further 93 injured Iraqis are expected to reach France later in the week.

France earlier offered to grant asylum to 150 Iraqi Christians, including some of those wounded in the siege. The French Minister for Immigration, Eric Besson, said that the decision was in accordance with his country’s tradition as a safe haven for persecuted minorities.

But Canon White said that some Iraqi Christians were not happy with the French offer, and did not support those who said that Chris­tians should leave. In a sermon at the Syrian Orthodox Church in London on Sunday, Archbishop Athanasios Dawood urged Iraqi Christians to flee to safety, and called on the British authorities to grant them asylum.

He later told the BBC: “If we stay, they will kill us. Which is better for us: to stay and be killed, or to emigrate to another place and live in peace?”

Canon White said, however, that many Iraqi Christians “simply want to flee. They can’t see how any sort of future is possible in Baghdad. Some do want to remain, but a dwindling number.” Over the past weeks, up to 500 people had left St George’s, a large proportion of whom are heading for Syria.

Condemnation within the Middle East of the church siege has con-­tinued. A senior Shiite Muslim cleric in Iraq, Shaikh Ahmad al-Safi, said “targeting churches and attempted murders are unacceptable, and should be condemned, because everyone in Iraq should enjoy the necessary protection to live.”

Archbishop of Canterbury calls for end of "sacrilegious butchery" against Christians in Iraq.

The Archbishop of Canterbury today issued a message of support to Christians in Iraq.

Dr Williams said Christians in the UK had read with "deep emotion the heartfelt appeal of our brothers the Syrian and Chaldean Catholic archbishops in Iraq" following the violence.

He said the killings at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Bagdad had "demonstrated a new low point of Christian vulnerability in the country. This slaughter of unarmed people gathered in church to worship God is a shocking and disgraceful act that should be utterly condemned by people of all faiths and none." 

Dr Williams offered prayers to Iraqi Christians around the world, and "those in Iraq who will live in greater fear not only because of this appalling event but also because of the continuing threats directed against them all.

"We hope and pray with all our hearts that there may be an end to this kind of sacrilegious butchery and to all intimidation and violence against Christians and other minorities in Iraq."

 

Archbishop of Canterbury calls for end of "sacrilegious butchery" against Christians in Iraq.

The Archbishop of Canterbury today issued a message of support to Christians in Iraq.

Dr Williams said Christians in the UK had read with "deep emotion the heartfelt appeal of our brothers the Syrian and Chaldean Catholic archbishops in Iraq" following the violence.

He said the killings at Our Lady of Salvation Church in Bagdad had "demonstrated a new low point of Christian vulnerability in the country. This slaughter of unarmed people gathered in church to worship God is a shocking and disgraceful act that should be utterly condemned by people of all faiths and none." 

Dr Williams offered prayers to Iraqi Christians around the world, and "those in Iraq who will live in greater fear not only because of this appalling event but also because of the continuing threats directed against them all.

"We hope and pray with all our hearts that there may be an end to this kind of sacrilegious butchery and to all intimidation and violence against Christians and other minorities in Iraq."

 

Forthcoming Events

14 September 2020
Festival of Pilgrimage
From Christ Church Oxford: a chance to reflect theologically on pilgrimage and come away with practical ideas for your parish.   Book tickets

29 September 2020
Festival of Preaching
A one-day online version of our popular preaching festival. With Mark Oakley, Sam Wells and Anna Carter Florence.   Book tickets

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)