Extremists are behind a “religion-cide” in Iraq, said a ministry leader Wednesday after receiving news that five more people were killed in Iraq’s Christian neighborhoods.
Less than two weeks after the deadliest attack against Christians, when 56 believers were killed, local police reported that at least 11 roadside bombs exploded within an hour in three Christian neighborhoods in Baghdad Wednesday. Five people, who have not been identified yet but are thought to be Christians, were killed in the coordinated attacks.
“Baghdad right now is just gripped by terrorism against the Christian community and there is no other way to put it,” exclaimed Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA. “I’m using the word religion-cide to explain to people what is really taking place in Iraq right now.”
“Extremists are concentrating their efforts to eliminate Christianity from that country,” he said, noting how sad this effort is given that Christianity has been in the land that is now known as Iraq for two millennia.
The bomb attacks come after the internationally-condemned rampage on Oct. 31, against believers attending mass at Our Lady of Salvation, Baghdad’s main Catholic Church. It was the deadliest attack against the Iraqi Christian community since Islamic extremists began targeting them in 2003. Among those killed were three Catholic priests, with one succumbing at the hospital.
Islamic State of Iraq, which includes al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni Islamic insurgent groups, has claimed responsibility for the Oct. 31 attack. It also posted a statement on militant websites last week calling for the continual bloodshed of Christians in the Middle East.
“We will open upon them the doors of destruction and rivers of blood,” reported The Associated Press. “All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers are legitimate targets for the muhajedeen (holy warriors) wherever they can reach them.”
Christians in Iraq have expressed frustration as well as desperation after the attack, saying that the Iraqi government only speaks word of protection but is unable to provide security for the beleaguered community.
An Open Doors contact (not identified for security reasons) in Baghdad sent the following message on Wednesday:
“[T]errorists have started to kill the Christians in their houses in many different places of the city. My family and I are very stressed and afraid. It is very horrible and we are safe now, but maybe we are the next victims. Why is there no real safe place in Baghdad? Will we also leave Baghdad or not? We do not want to leave. We are born here. My family has lived here for ages and now I am forced to escape? What is this kind of world? Please pray for us to keep us safe until Friday, when we can get out for a few days.”
This coming Sunday, Nov. 14, is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Moeller urges Christians to particularly remember the persecuted believers in Iraq and pray for their safety and that God can use the weak Iraqi government to protect them.
There are only about 600,000 Christians in Iraq now, down from about 1.2 million before the U.S-led invasion in 2003. Religious freedom experts have raised the alarm that if nothing is done the Iraqi Christian population will soon be extinct as violence drives them to flee their homeland.