Iraq: church destroyed by arsonists

 St George's Assyrian Church in the Dora district Baghdad, was completely destroyed by a firebomb last week. It was already badly damaged from a bombing in October 2004. Dr Keith Roderick of Christian Solidarity International said: "The bombing of St George's Church should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that a process of ethnic cleansing has begun. "Unfortunately, the United States has put very little pressure on the Iraqi government to establish, as guaranteed by provisions in the Iraqi constitution, an autonomous federal unit of self governance and security for these minorities," he added. The attack is the latest in a series of measures by Islamic militants aimed at forcing Christians to leave Iraq. More than 27 churches have been attacked. Rev Roderick said: "There are estimates that nearly 50 percent of the Christians of Iraq have been forced to flee into exile, It is lamentable that the international community and the US have not treated this terrible human dilemma with an urgent response." Peter BetBason of the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that al-Qaida has moved into the Dora neighbourhood and started to force Christian families to pay protection money if they wish to stay. BetBason reports that a Sunni insurgent governing council dominated by al-Qaida, recently appointed a local imam, Hatym al-Rizeq, as its "prince" for the al-Dora neighbourhood. He began demanding that Christian Assyrians pay the protection tax last month. "Christians in Iraq are on their way to extinction, cut off from the country's political process," said Fr Bashar Warda, newly-appointed rector of the St Peter Major Seminary, which was recently moved from Baghdad to Ankawa in Iraqi Kurdistan for security reasons. When asked why nothing had been done since the liberation to protect Iraqi Christians, Father Warda blamed "the indifference of Iraqi leaders. They do not consider us as belonging to this nation." He said that other Iraqi groups take advantage of Christians "because we have no outside support or our own militia. They know that all we can do is make appeals and complain. Politicians act convinced that our community is bound to disappear in a few years." Christian Solidarity International estimates that 100,000 Assyrian Christians have fled Iraq for Jordan, where the government refuses to grant them refugee status and has closed church schools because they are "teaching Christianity." Many more have fled for Syria. In 1987, the Christian population of Iraq was 1.4 million, Roderick said. "Today it is estimated to be between 600,000 and 800,000." Source: IRNews/CSW

Share this story