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

March 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Asia, Iraq, newsletter-world, Persecution

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

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