The year 2011 did not bring respite for Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq as hundreds of thousands of migrants who fled the country are still unwilling to risk returning due to reports of continued discrimination, fear of renewed violence and the government's apparent inability to protect citizens.
In addition to the lack of life opportunities in Iraq, Assyrian Christians and other minorities experienced a significant rise in hostile acts and riots in the country's northen region in 2011 compared to 2010, according to a newly released Human Right Watch report. Northern Iraq has traditionally been considered a safe haven for minority groups, but the uptick in violence indicates conditions are changing.
The human rights agency also warned that "Given the huge exodus of minorities and continuing threats and violence in 2011," there is a probability that Assyrians, an ethnic indigenous minority which is mostly Chrisitan, "may not survive the current conflict and that their unique culture and heritage will slowly disappear from Iraq." more >>
The Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Matthew in Baghdad was one of the targets in a string of bombings Tuesday, as Iraqi extremists conducted a series of attacks in several cities and towns across the country that killed at least 52 people in total.
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. more >>
A local Muslim student at a private school in northern Iraq fatally shot his gym teacher, a Christian from the United States, before shooting himself on Thursday. Local authorities said sectarianism was not the motive, but the victim's father disagrees.
Biyar Sarwar, an 18-year-old student at the Classical School of the Medes in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, shot his gym teacher Jeremiah Small, a 33-year-old American citizen and reportedly a believing Christian, before turning the gun on himself during a morning sports lecture Thursday, The Daily World reported.
While Small died on the spot, Sarwar died later at a hospital in Sulaimaniyah, about 160 miles northeast of the national capital city of Baghdad. more >>
The toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime might have brought democracy to the country, but it also unleashed sectarian violence that has been taking a toll on the country's religious minorities, experts have told The Christian post.
International observers have been unsettled by how the number of Iraqi Christians has diminished by over 600,000 since the 2003 U.S. invasion. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that up to 2 million Iraqis have fled the country since, with approximately 1.1 million settling in Syria and 450,000 in Jordan. A disproportionate number of those fleeing have been religious minorities, including Christians, Sabian Mandaeans, and Yazidis, according to Minority Rights Group International.
In mid-January, U.S. Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, like many others, claimed the collapse of Iraq's Christian population was among the legacies of America's 2003 invasion, according to the Catholic News Agency (CNA). Broglio, especially concerned about Iraq's Catholics, claims believers suffered after the ousting of Hussein. The dictator, he told CNA, tended "to trust Catholics, and gave them positions of responsibility." And even if Catholics "weren't particularly part of the regime, they became identified with the regime," Broglio was quoted as saying. more >>
Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi warned earlier this week that his country is on the brink of plunging back into a volatile cycle of sectarian violence that could greatly harm the country's diverse population, including the Christian community.
"Al-Maliki is pushing my country to reach a turning point with (a) deeply sectarian dimension," the self-exiled al-Hashimi told CNN Sunday during an exclusive interview in Iraq's semiautonomous northern Kurdish region.
"The future of Iraq is grim," al-Hashimi warned in the interview. more >>
The three men connected with the 2010 Our Lady of Salvation church attack in central Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 52 people, have had their death sentences confirmed.
They were initially sentenced to death on Aug. 2, 2011, with an accomplice receiving 20 years in prison, and now the Iraqi appeals court confirmed that the men will be executed for their crimes, AFP reported.
The Islamic State of Iraq, an affiliate of al-Qaida, accepted responsibility for the attacks, where militants stormed the Our Lady of Salvation church on Oct. 31, 2010, and killed 44 worshipers, two priests and seven security guards, as well as wounding dozens of others. more >>