Persecution of Christians in Nigeria, Laos & Iraq

September 29, 2012 by  
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Nigeria: Suicide bomber hits church in bauchi, at least four deadNIGERIA: SUICIDE BOMBER HITS CHURCH IN BAUCHI, AT LEAST FOUR DEAD

A suicide bomber struck a church in Bauchi, Nigeria, on Sunday (23 September), killing himself and at least four people.

The attack on the church in the Bayan Gari area of Bauchi Town happened at around 9am as worshippers were leaving after the first service of the day. The bomber detonated his explosives at the church gate after failing to gain access to the site.

A boy aged around seven was among the fatalities. The death toll could rise, as many of the 48 people who were wounded suffered life-threatening injuries.

The incident followed another attack on Christians in the town the previous Sunday (16 September). Gunmen opened fire at a place where people gather to socialise in the evening; nine were killed.

LAOS: FIVE CHRISTIAN LEADERS FROM SAME DISTRICT ARRESTED

Five Christian leaders were arrested as part of a crackdown on the Church in one Lao district.

On 11 September, three pastors, Bounlert of Alowmai church, Adang of Kengsainoy church and Onkaew of Kapang church, along with two other Christian leaders whose names have not been made public, were detained by police in Phin district, Savannakhet province.

The latter two were released on 13 September, but the other three have been held in harsh conditions, their hands and feet chained. Adang and Onkaew are seriously ill.

While the church pastors were locked up, police officers went to their congregations and questioned their wives and other leaders; they were asked about church finances, their own Christian faith and that of others, as well as details about the pastors’ work.

IRAQ: YOUNG CHRISTIANS HOLD PRAYER VIGIL AFTER CHURCH BOMBING

Over 150 young Christians held a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Saturday (22 September), following an explosion in front of a church there. Inspired by the International Day of Peace on Friday, they were also joined by older believers.

A bomb hidden in a bag had exploded at the door of the cathedral in Kirkuk on Sunday 16 September at 8.45pm. The building was damaged but nobody was hurt.

– barnabas team

Security concerns and hardship drive Christians out of northern Iraq *52 killed in string of Iraq bombings; Baghdad church targeted

March 24, 2012 by  
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Riots IraqIraq, March 22, 2012: Iraqi Christians are running out of havens in their homeland as rising security concerns and economic hardship cause them to leave the places of refuge they had found in the country’s Kurdish north.  

A surge in anti-Christian violence following the US-led invasion in 2003 prompted thousands of believers to flee their homes in the most dangerous parts of Iraq, such as the capital, Baghdad, and Mosul. Some left for neighbouring countries, notably Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, while others headed north to the autonomous region of Kurdistan, which welcomed Christians and was relatively safe.

The worst-ever attack on Iraqi Christians, a siege on a church in Baghdad in October 2010 that left over 50 people dead, prompted another flight to Kurdistan, where there were already tens of thousands of Christian exiles.

But now, because of incidents of anti-Christian violence there, as well as economic hardship, they are starting to leave; many are seeking immigration to Turkey, Europe and the USA.

In January, the International Organisation for Migration found that 63 per cent of the displaced Christian families that it was monitoring in northern Iraq had left in the past year. Many of them said that they were concerned about security, and were having difficulty finding employment, housing and schools. Most of them speak only Arabic, not Kurdish, which severely restricts their opportunities.

The Kurdish government has offered land, free fuel and other assistance to Christians, but many families are struggling to make ends meet. 

And violent attacks, like the ones that Christians fled elsewhere in Iraq, are starting to happen in Kurdistan. When Christian-owned shops in Dohuk Province were torched by Islamists in December, Salam Meti Abdul Karim, a Christian who fled there from Mosul seven years ago after retrieving his son from kidnappers, said it was “like history was repeating itself”.

He added:

We worry the situation is just going to devolve into violence. I was thinking to just take my family and go up to the mountains.

In another worrying attack on the Christian community in Kurdistan, Sermat Patros, a 29-year-old Christian man, was kidnapped and held for three days before being rescued by a SWAT team.

Berkho Odeesho, mayor of Dawudiyah village, said, “We found safety in Kurdistan, but things are getting unstable. We don’t know where to go.”

There were 1.5m Christians in Iraq in 1990; there are estimated to be fewer than 500,000 today and it seems likely that their number will continue to fall.

In its most recent annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote, “The consequence of this flight may be the end of Christianity in Iraq.”

– barnabas team

52 killed in string of Iraq bombings; Baghdad church targeted

 

Iraq, March 21, 2012: Over 30 bombs were detonated and wounded an estimated 250 people. The attacks are believed to be a challenge extremists wanted to throw at security forces on the ninth anniversary of U.S. invasion of the country on March 20, 2003.

The deadliest incident occurred in the southern city of Kerbala, a city Shi’ite Muslims consider sacred, where two car bombs killed 13 people and wounded 48 during the morning rush hour, according to media reports. Other targeted areas included Baiji, Baquba, Daquq, Dibis, Dhuluiya, Kirkuk, Mosul, Samarra, Tuz Khurmato, Khalis and Dujail to the north of Baghdad, Falluja and Ramadi to the west, and Hilla, Latifiya, Mahmudiya and Mussayab to the south. Police reportedly defused bombs in Baquba, Falluja and Mosul. Experts called the day of the blasts Iraq’s bloodiest in nearly a month.

The bombing of St. Matthew church in Baghdad reportedly caused the death of two guards and wounded five other people. Officials have yet to confirm if the building was specifically targeted by terrorists because it is a Christian place of worship, or for other reasons.

The attacks were successful despite a massive security clampdown ahead of next week’s Arab League summit in Baghdad, local sources said.

“The goal of today’s attacks was to present a negative image of the security situation in Iraq,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters. 

“Security efforts will be escalated to counteract terrorist groups’ attacks and to fill loopholes used by them to infiltrate security, whether in Baghdad or other provinces,” he added.

Army and police forces are frequently targeted in Iraq, where bombings and shootings still occur almost daily, according to media reports. The United States formally ended the war in Iraq on Dec. 15, 2011, and the Iraqi army took on responsibility for the safety of civilians.

The bombing of the church raises painful memories for the local Christian community, which saw the attack on another Baghdad church, Our Lady of Salvation, in 2010. On Oct. 31, 2010, armed militants, some wearing suicide vests, stormed the Catholic church during Sunday Mass. At least 80 worshipers were taken hostage. Hours later, Iraqi special forces raided the church, at which point the explosives went off. The attack killed 58 people, mostly congregants, and left 75 wounded.

As sectarian violence erupted in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion — especially between Shi’ites and Sunni Muslims — local religious minorities, including Christians, found themselves not only caught in the crossfire, but also specifically targeted.

Violent intimidation and other forms of persecution have reportedly led hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians to flee the country, and the remaining population is believed to be diminishing.

– christian post

Legacy of US Iraq’s Invasion : Near extinction of Christian population?

February 21, 2012 by  
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Operation-Iraqi-Freedom

Operation Iraqi Freedom

Iraq, February 14, 2012: With the withdrawal of the US led forces from Iraq, Operation Iraqi freedom turns into Operation Iraqi Christians decimation.

Around fourteen months back, in November 2010, I had written about the pressures on the Christian minority community in Iraq and my fear about their extinction from their motherland in one of my piece, “Operation Iraqi freedom and Christians in Iraq” which was carried by number of news portals. (http://www.aina.org/news/20101102214511.htm / http://twocircles.net/2010nov02/operation_iraqi_freedom_and_christians_iraq.html and others)

Some of the admirers of US regime, my friends in US and even some of the Muslim activists had disagreed with the analysis and had responded with their disagreement for different reasons. A good number disagreed because of their hate for Saddam and others for the exposure of the indifferent temperamental behavior of the some Muslims towards the religious minorities in Muslim society.

A month after the withdrawal of the Allied forces from Iraq and its becoming a sovereign state, one of the serving US Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio admitted in an interview to CNA in Rome, “Yes, you can say in a certain sense that the invasion of Iraq did provoke this tremendous diminution of the Christian population in that country. And what the future holds, that still remains to be seen,” Archbishop Timothy believes that the collapse of Iraq’s Christian population is among the legacies of America’s invasion in 2003 and he is absolutely correct.

Before the invasion of Iraq, Christian population was around 1.4 million of the total population and the community had enjoyed all kinds of support and patronage during Saddam’s regime which dwindled to around one hundred forty thousand at the time of the withdrawal of the Allied forces. Did they just vanish? Its a million dollar question.

Secular Saddam Hussein had always trusted Christians and had appointed them to the highest government posts beside giving them freedom to profess their religion with dignity.

Overwhelming majority of the world’s population had considered Tariq Aziz, a Christian and the international face of Saddam’s regime, who was also foreign minister, as a Muslim. Christians being considered staunch supporters of Saddam’s regime faced twin pressures with its downfall, the foremost being the coreligionists of the invading forces and for others as the former ally of tyrant Saddam Hussain.

The Sunni Muslims of Iraq were nearly convinced and shocked to see the switch of the loyalty of the Christian community to the invading Allied forces and the Kurds & the Shia’s hate reached its zenith because of the community’s past alliance with Saddam. The irony of the whole scenario was that Saddam protected them where as the Allied forces under US command totally shied to extend a protective cordon for them. With the rising violence against the community the Christians were forced to live as displaced community in their own country and in other countries.

What the Americans did was a catastrophe for a multi- religious Iraqi society when they literally open their embassy gates for granting refugee visas to the Assyrians, Armenians and the Catholic Christians and created zones for them at different places in the suburbs of the American cities. The European Union too followed the policy and a good number of them migrated to the invading member countries of the European Union.

During one of my visit to the hub of the Chaldean Christian community in USA, I was amused to know about the fair treatment the community had received from Saddam. One of the Chaldean refugee pastor in US told me that after the Iraq invasion, the open patronage of Condaleeza Rice, the then National Security Advisor to President Bush, morally and financially to her fellow Protestant Iraqi Christians angered the Iraqi Muslims-Sunni’s and the Shia’s and they started targeting Christian churches and the community with more vigor.

The pastor was of the view that ‘Wahhabi Sunnis soon started getting patronage from one of the gulf allies of America’ and the problem took alarming proportions. More than one hundred thousand migrated to neighboring Jordan too and are still living there. Thousands internally displaced took refuge in Northern Iraq in the plain of Nineveh, the historic homeland of Christians of Iraq.

Monsignor John Kozar, President of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, recently spoke of the “strong determination” some Iraqi Catholics have to go back home. After his visit to Jordan, Monsignor opined, “I think they have a yearning to return to the homeland, and that homeland for them means practicing their Chaldean-rite Christianity, that has become very, very important to them.”

While announcing the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, President Obama had confidently thundered on 15th December 2011, “they we are leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant,” country and just 10 days after his pronouncement the Christian community in Iraq was under such tremendous pressure that fear of an attack forced Christians during Chrism to cancel the Chaldean Catholics’ midnight Christmas celebrations. Services were moved to the daytime, and Christians were warned by community leaders not to display decorations outside their homes.

I wonders whom to blame for the decimation of the patriotic Iraqi Christians from Iraq, invading Allied forces under US command or Al Qaida?

– navaid hamid

Shia pilgrims and Christians attacked in Iraq

December 10, 2011 by  
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Attacked in IraqBaghdad, December 7, 2011: A series of bomb attacks killed 30 in Iraq on Monday. The deadliest attack took place in al-Nil to the north of the city of Hilla, where a car bomb exploded as a group of pilgrims passed by, killing 16 people. Two further explosive devices were detonated in Hill and a town to the north, Latifaya. Later there were two attacks in separate areas of the capital, Baghdad.

The attacks came as Shia pilgrims were gathered to mark the festival of Ashura. The word Ashura means “10th” and was the day when the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed died in battle in 680 in Karbala, modern-day Iraq. Hussein was the third Shiite imam and the anniversary is commemorated with re-enactments of his death. In recent years the day has also become an occasion of violence with Sunni extremists attacking Shia pilgrims.

The attacks came shortly after a number of shops owned by Christians in the northern city of Zakho were seriously damaged by groups of extremists. Groups of mainly young people were incited to carry out the attacks by an inflammatory sermon of an imam during last Friday’s prayers.

According to a report published by Asia News, local Christian sources said that hundreds of people destroyed at least 13 liquor shops, but the final number of shops damaged could be significantly higher.

There was also violence in the Christian village of Shiuz. Both in Zakho and Shiuz, police took their time in reacting to the aggression and the Christian community feels abandoned by the local authorities.

The local source for Asia News, who remained anonymous for reasons of safety, warned that such events have led to Christians leaving their native lands in search of security.

– zenit

Despite 200 Murders, Iraqi Church Grows Strong

June 6, 2011 by  
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Iraqi Anglican Canon Andrew White

Iraqi Anglican Canon Andrew White

Most Bible-believing Christians would probably run from a church after one or two of its members were murdered, much less after witnessing 200 killed in the first six months of the year.

Indeed, many of the most fervent saints would abandon a congregation where bomb blasts are the norm and where saints are kidnapped on a weekly basis.

Despite these horrible realities, however, Iraqi Anglican Canon Andrew White says his Baghdad church is 4,000 people strong—and his members are among the happiest church-goers he’s ever seen.

“So many Christians have been killed,” White said in an exclusive interview with Charisma Publisher Steve Strang which you can watch below.
“Yet the church in Iraq is so happy—miraculously happy. The fact that the church is like this is incredible. And they’ve got a huge amount to teach us.”

St. George’s Church, located in Baghdad’s Red Zone, is one of the only Anglican churches in Iraq. Though an estimated 800,000 Christians have fled the area in recent years, the church has grown to become the country’s largest. White estimates more than 550 Muslims attend St. George’s, though there may be more given that most Muslims in Iraq face the threat of death upon publicly confessing Jesus as Lord. Last year White baptized 13 Muslims; within a week, 11 of them were murdered.

  “We say to them, ‘You realize this is dangerous,’ and they always say, ‘We just love and want to follow Jesus,’” White says.

White takes the danger seriously. In fact, to guard against suicide bombers and other attacks, at least 30 armed officers surround St. George’s, and each worshipper is searched before entering the church building. But with unrest now part of daily life, White says the church must be a beacon of peace to a nation filled with turmoil.

 “That’s very important,” he says. “We can’t talk about reconciliation or peace-making without actually providing for the needs of people.”

 Operating on a $177,000 monthly budget, the church supplies weekly groceries to more than 4,000 and free medical care to everyone in the area. Its compound currently has a medical facility housing four doctors and three dentists, as well as a pharmacy and laboratory. The church plans to open a school and provide money for housing to their mostly Muslim recipients.

 Known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” White is also the founder of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, through which he has mediated hundreds of hostage negotiations and peace agreements. But this London native says sharing Christ’s love with the Iraqi people overshadows the dangerous situations in which he often finds himself.

 “Despite the difficulty, you have to love the people. Part of worship is loving,” he says. “When Jesus went about His work He preached and healed. And that is what we aim to do: preach and heal.”

 To that degree, White says healings and miracles are a normal part of the church’s life, as are angelic visitations and divine acts of protection. To the right is one of the photos White offered Charisma News to show the angelic visitations.

 “When you’ve lost everything you realize that Jesus is all you have left,” he says. “And that’s all we have is Jesus. The church has continued under much opposition. It’s grown to be large, so strong. So awful are the things around us and yet we’re the most happiest church I’ve ever pastored.”

– frrme.org