Iraq: Serial Attacks on Churches Continue

Monday, January 21, 2008

Two injured in car bomb blast outside temple in Mosul.

LOS ANGELES (Compass Direct News) -- A car-bomb exploded outside a Chaldean church in northern Iraq yesterday, injuring two people, a Baghdad bishop said. The blast is the 10th reported attack on Iraqi churches in two weeks.

Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad Shlemon Warduni confirmed that the explosion outside the Tahira church in western Mosul’s al-Shifaa neighborhood had slightly injured two people.

Acting on reports that an unfamiliar vehicle was parked outside the church, police had already cleared the area and were waiting for a team of bomb experts to arrive when the car exploded, Iraqi Christian website reported.

The blast hurt a policeman and an unidentified woman and damaged a church wall and windows, the site said. It came just a week after two churches in Kirkuk, 150 miles north of Baghdad, were simultaneously bombed.

The explosions took place in rapid succession shortly before 5 p.m. outside Kirkuk’s Chaldean Cathedral and St. Ephrem Syrian Orthodox church, a priest at the cathedral said. No one was injured in the blasts, which destroyed the Chaldean church’s compound wall and windows.

“It happened behind the cathedral, where we normally give our Christian instruction, but was at a time when we had no activities,” the priest told Compass.

The blasts came days after the apparently coordinated bombing of four churches and three convents in Baghdad and Mosul on January 6, in which six people were injured. The explosions ended a period of relative calm in which Iraq’s beleaguered Christian community had seen a drop in violence.

'Sad and Afraid'

In the aftermath of the bombings, Iraq’s prime minister came out in support of the country’s Christian minority.

Nouri Al-Maliki promised to pursue the church bombers and said his government was deeply concerned with the safety of the country’s Christians, Arabic news website reported on January 8.

But with violence between Shiite and Sunni militias running rampant in Iraq, it remains to be seen how much security the government will provide.

“Many people have been killed and many have been kidnapped this year, so our people are very sad and afraid,” Bishop Warduni said.

The clergyman spoke of the difficulty of reasoning with terrorists, whom he said not only attack churches but also mosques, saying “This is all against God, because these are houses of prayer.”

Warduni appealed to believers around the world for an end to terrorism and violence against innocent people in Iraq.

According to official figures, Iraqi Christians numbered 3 percent of the population before the U.S. invasion in 2003. The ensuing chaos and direct attacks on the religious minority have forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.

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