Iraqi Court Ratifies Death Sentence for Church Attackers

Three men convicted of a terrorist attack against an Iraqi church in 2010 were sentenced to death by the nation's highest court.

Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council ratified the capital punishment decision for the three men who were found guilty of perpetrating a hostage situation that resulted in over 50 deaths and 60 wounded.

Tina Ramirez, director of International and Government Relations for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told The Christian Post that she agreed with the decision but that it must become a trend.

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"There must be a consistent pattern of justice and protection of the rights of minorities as equal citizens in the region; one decision is good, but not yet a pattern to justify praise," said Ramirez.

"Last year, an Armenian Christian in Iraq won a case of religious discrimination against the government, but he then had to flee the country for safety."

Ramirez believed that the Iraqi government "should take the concerns of minority faith communities seriously" and make the Ninewah Plains, a part of the country with a sizable Christian population, a province.

"They should investigate why Christians and others are marginalized and forced out of government, and offer incentives for minority faith communities to remain in the country rather than seek asylum elsewhere," she stated.

"All of this will also require heightened security, as well as social respect for historic place of other religious communities as equal members of society."

Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, an organization that focuses on Christians persecuted abroad, told CP that he also agreed with the court's decision.

"I certainly commend the court on the decision," said Moeller, who added that the decision was one "they needed to make."

Moeller believed the decision "has more than just religious implications," as the decision was based on the government's "own need to gain a larger degree of control" over a country still struggling with stability issues.

The Open Doors head also felt that to further safeguard the rights of religious minorities the government has to provide "more than physical security," including "ideological and religious security" for non-Muslim communities.

"The Iraqi government must provide for full and free religious freedom for Christians and other religious minorities in the country," he asserted.

"Otherwise, it's not freedom, just a caged presence."

As with other nations in the Middle East, Iraqi Christians have endured a recent wave of popular violence against them. Throughout 2011, violence prompted large numbers of Christians to flee the country with kidnappings and murders attributed to groups like the al-Qaida affiliate Islamic State of Iraq and the Muslim Brotherhood inspired Kurdistan Islamic Union party.

The result of this wave of persecution has been a severe reduction in the Iraqi Christian population as tens of thousands leave the nation.

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