Concern over new attacks on churches in Iraq

By staff writers
January 8, 2008

Church and civic leaders in Iraq are expressing concern after reports that a number of churches were bombed on Sunday 6 January 2007, following Eid and Christmas, and at a time when Orthodox Christians were celebrating New Year’s Eve.

Various explosive devices, mortar shells and bombs detonated from cars were used in attacks targeting seven churches and monasteries in Baghdad and Mosul, according to the Dubai-based newspaper The Khaleej Times.

It is believed that six or seven people were wounded, including two guards. A bomb destroyed the external wall of St Maskinta Church in Mosul. The church has an orphanage for girls attached. A number of children were evacuated, according to the nuns who run it.

Declared Mosul’s Chaldean Archbishop Farac Raho: “I am very upset. That the explosions went off at the same time proves that this was part of a plan.”

He continued: “Both our Muslim siblings and we had just celebrated Eid and Christmas at the same time this year and everything was going well.”

In the Gregorian calendar still used by the Eastern Church, Christmas and New Year fall on a later date.

Archbishop Raho added that sectarian groups have "never really stopped pointing their weapons at us. Iraq’s government must immediately act against violence directed towards us Christians.”

Yesterday (7 January 2008), Iraq's vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Muslim, condemned the attacks and expressed sympathy with the Christian “brothers", new agencies report.

Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US and allied forces there were up to a million Christians in Iraq. But the historic churches have been virtually decimated in the aftermath.

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