2004 August 10 Tuesday
Christian Churches Bombed In Iraq

Simultaneous car bombs hit 5 churches in Iraq.

ASSAILANTS triggered co-ordinated explosions outside five churches in Baghdad and Mosul yesterday, killing 11 people and wounding more than 50 in the first major assault on Iraq's Christian minority since the 15-month-old insurgency began.

The attacks against Iraq's 750,000-member Christian community seemed to confirm members' fears they might be targeted as suspected collaborators with US forces amid a rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism.

The Assyrian Christian main offices in Baghdad were shelled by mortars.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Assyrian Christian compound in Baghdad came under mortar attack yesterday, just over a week after bombers killed up to 15 Christians, news reports and church officials said.

The attacks on Iraqi Christian religious facilities is a new twist in the Iraqi civil war.

Christians, who make up about 3 per cent of Iraq's population of 25 million, have traditionally kept a relatively low profile. A spate of attacks on alcohol sellers fuelled fears that Christians might be singled out for attack, but until Sunday, their places of worship had seemed safe.

Some blame the attacks on attempts to increase distrust and disagreement between the groups.

The US military has warned that guerrillas opposed to the presence of more 160,000 foreign troops may try to deepen divisions between the country’s diverse religious communities in their campaign to destabilise Iraq.

"It is terrible and worrying because it is the first time that Christian churches are being targeted in Iraq," said the Vatican deputy spokesman, Father Ciro Benedettini. "There seems to be an attempt to heighten tensions by trying to affect all social groups, including churches," he said.

I do not totally buy the "heighten tensions" explanations. My guess is that the Sunni radicals from outside of Iraq see Christians as a group that ought to either leave or totally submit to Muslim rule. They are telling the Christians to submit to Muslim rule and to have no ambitions or involvement in the current civil war for control of the country.

As history repeats itself the Assyrian Christians want a protectorate.

This illusory British "protection" proved fatal. In July 1933, a band of armed Assyrians tried to flee into neighboring Syria, and a border skirmish erupted. Iraqi authorities portrayed it as a full-blown insurrection by an Assyrian fifth column trying to bring back their imperialist protectors. That summer, Iraqi troops and armed Kurdish tribesmen led a massacre against Assyrians, culminating in the slaughter of hundreds of helpless Assyrian villagers on August 11. On their return to Baghdad, a cheering populace showered the troops with rose water and pelted them with flowers for their victory in crushing the Assyrian "revolt."

Today, Assyrians are again asking for a protected province in the north, as well as money to fund a hotline and three safe houses for victims of anti-Christian crimes. "If we can get a zone in the north of Iraq, the rest of Iraq is going to go to hell, but we can be safe," says Mr. Joseph. "Otherwise, Chicago and San Diego and Detroit had better get ready for another flood of Assyrian refugees."

Christians probably do need their own zone if they are to be safe in Iraq. But the United States is not yet ready to accept the idea of partition. So expect to see a rising wave of Christians fleeing Iraq for Syria, Canada, Australia, and the United States as fast they can manage to get permission to go to each of these places.

Note that Syria is a desired destination for fleeing Christians because Christians are far safer in Baathist-ruled Syria where most of the top leaders are members of the minority Muslim Alawite sect. I hope the neoconservatives do not manage to get their way and get the United States to overthrow the Alawites (as Richard Perle and David Frum advocate - and some see their advocacy as a sign of insanity - though I mostly attribute it to a mixture of foolishness and divided loyalties). If that happened then Syria would cease to be a safe haven for Arab Christians. At the very least the neocons must be made to agree that the United States should be willing to accept all Christian refugees from Syria if the Syrian government is overthrown. Or the neocons ought to admit to the necessity of partition if the United States is going to overthrow secular regimes in countries that suffer from deep tribal, religious, and ethnic splits. If we are going to destroy safe havens we ought to give people new safe places to live.

Also see my previous post Assyrian Christians Trying To Flee Iraq To Escape Muslim Rule.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 August 10 11:16 AM  Mideast Iraq Freedom Rights


Comments
razib said at August 10, 2004 1:37 PM:

please note that the muslim status of the alawites is not cut & dried, they have been accused of being a heretical crypto-christian sect. whether the alawites are muslim or not (such things are hard to reduce in rational terms, and emerge out of consensus and realpolitik, eg; the ayatollah khomeini declared that the alawites were orthodox shia in part because of an alliance with their regime during the iran-iraq war), the fact that they have been the target of muslim fundamentalism results in a like + like effect in their relationship to christians (syria has a large christian minority).

Matt Edmonds said at September 28, 2005 7:01 AM:

To whom it may concern,

My name is Matt Edmonds and I am researching a radio project about the Persecution of Christians in Iraq and Iran for CTVC, an independent production company based in central London, England. We specialise in the impact that social, religious and ethical issues have on all our lives. Currently, we are looking to develop a program that looks at the theme, and narratives, of Persecution of religious individuals and communities. The project will hopefully be developed and produced in late 2006-2007. To stay faithful to the contemporary experiences of the persecuted minorities in the afore-mentioned countries, we are looking for contacts in Iraq and Iran who would be willing to share their opinions and stories with us in the coming year. Any contacts of Christian communities or individuals that you may have, be they indigenous organisations with offices here in England or missionary workers in the countries themselves, would be most helpful and much appreciated.

Thank you for your time,

Matt Edmonds.



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