As the United States withdraws troops from Iraq after nine years of conflict, many fear the vulnerable Christian community in the country will be left unprotected.
Since the war began in March 2003, Iraq erupted into sectarian violence, leaving U.S. troops in charge of trying to contain what threatened to become a civil war. The situation turned out to be catastrophic for the Christian community, as violence against Christians soared, including a an attack on a church in Baghdad in Oct. 2010, in which over 50 congregants were killed.
Iraqi Christians are caught amidst political brawls between the majority Shiite Muslims, the Sunni Muslims and the Kurds (in the north) who are predominantly Muslim, experts say. Many chose to leave the country. more >>
Attacks against Christian Assyrian businesses in northern Iraq over the weekend, which local sources said were organized by a pro-Islamic political party, marked the first such destruction of Christian establishments in the Kurdish region.
The rampage threatens the frail security of Iraq’s dwindling Christian population, sources said.
After mullah Mala Ismail Osman Sindi’s sermon claiming there was moral corruption in massage parlors in the northern town of Zakho on Friday (Dec. 2), a group of young men attacked and burned shops in the town, most of them Christian-owned. The businesses included liquor stores, hotels, a beauty salon and a massage parlor, according to Ankawa News. more >>
The life of Iraqi Christians has not been easy. Since a siege directed against Christians in Baghdad in October 2010 killed 52 people, the situation of the followers of Christ in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation has grown worse.
About 500,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from an estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million in 2003, according to a report by Minority Rights Group International, a research body. Persecution makes the Christian community smaller each year, with churches as well as households being targeted and causing worshippers to flee.
The Christmas holiday season has rarely been a happy one for Christians in the Middle East, where they are often not allowed to raise church buildings and house churches often experience raids and harassment. Experts on the region say the Christmas season is a particularly dangerous period for the Christian minority, when numerous acts of violence and vandalism take place. more >>
President Barack Obama announced on Friday he will withdraw all U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of 2011, marking an end to one of the most controversial and bloodiest wars in American history.
"As promised the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama said. "Today I can say that troops in Iraq will be home for the holidays.”
Obama said he and the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, are "in full agreement about how to move forward." more >>
In a coordinated effort to generate fear among Iraqi Christians, the ethnically and religiously diverse city of Kirkuk witnessed another attack outside a Syrian Catholic Church on Tuesday around 6 a.m.
At least 23 people were wounded in the attack, mostly from surrounding homes. The church's parish leader, Imad Yalda, was inside the church during the bombing and was also among the wounded.
Following the attack, two other car bombs were also found outside Kirkuk's Christian Anglican Church and the Mar Gourgis church. more >>
The first new church in Iraq since the 2003 conflict has opened its doors late last week, with the church’s leader calling for interfaith cooperation to ensure peace and stability in their war-wracked country.
Archbishop Louis Sako, speaking during an inauguration ceremony to a gathering of both Christians and Muslims inside Mar Bulos, or Saint Paul's Church, said during Thursday's event, "Isolation is a slow death, so we have hope for a joint life as Christians and Muslims, to have a righteous country, and a city full of security, stability and dignity."
Sako's call for security and stability speaks directly to the sharp rise in the number of Christians who have fled Iraq seeking to escape the threats and attacks of terrorist group Al-Qaida. The number of Christians living in Iraq has shrunk from approximately 1.2 million in 2003 to about 400,000, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP). more >>