Death of Elderly Christian Couple Highlights Religious Persecution in Iraq

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

by Marshall Ramsey II, Worthy News US Correspondent

BAGHDAD, Iraq (Worthy News)-- An elderly Christian couple was gunned down in their Baghdad home Sunday night in what is the latest incident in a string of religious-rooted attacks against Christians in Iraq.

According to CNN, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta said that 15 "Arabs" (non-Iraqis) were responsible for three deadly attacks in Baghdad in recent months. While not assigning responsibility for Sunday's killing of the elderly couple to these men, Maj. Gen. Atta did link them to the October 31, 2010 incident at Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral in Baghdad where around 70 people died, and 75 more, including 51 congregants and two priests, were wounded.

The first of the three attacks came on August 17, when suicide bombers killed at least 48 people at a military recruitment center in central Baghdad. The second incident took place on September 5, where at least eight people died in a suicide bombing at a military base in the same area. While there have been larger scale operations carried out, most were like what happened Sunday evening, with gunfire or bombs targeting a few Christians at a time.


Although the issue of attacks against Christians in Iraq has recently been brought to the mainstream, violence and/or the threat of it has been a way of life for years. Christians are a religious minority in Iraq, which is predominantly occupied by Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and tens of thousands have fled the country in recent years. This has led the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and an American Catholic archbishop to express concerns for Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.

Cardinal Emmanuel Delly III, patriarch of Iraq's largest Christian community, the Chaldean Catholic Church, urged Iraqi Christians to "stand firm" during these "difficult times."

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Sunday that he spoke with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on the need to protect Christians, calling it an issue "of paramount interest for my country and for me personally." Mr. Frattini also met this week with survivors of the church siege and Cardinal Delly, saying it was important that Christians feel secure in Iraq, and that they remain there. "We shouldn't tolerate Christians leaving Iraq," he said. "If Christians leave, the terrorists and al-Qaeda would have won."

Mr. Frattini said that the Iraqi prime minister told him that a Christian would head a new parliamentary committee that will look into how best to safeguard security for members of this religious group. Mr. al-Maliki has given "assurances" that those behind the violence would be "severely punished" and that Christian leaders in Iraq would be kept up-to-date on key developments. In the meantime, Iraqis are also mulling forming police units specifically charged with protecting Christians, according to Mr. Frattini.