12/16/2009, 00.00
IRAQ

A policy of “ethnic cleansing” against Christians under way in Mosul, Mgr Sako says

The archbishop of Kirkuk says security measures will be strengthened during Christmas for fear of new attacks. Two attacks are carried out in Mosul yesterday; two churches are hit, one baby girl is dead and 40 people are wounded. Source tells AsiaNews that the Christian community is “destined to die” in the city.
Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – A policy of “ethnic and religious cleansing” is underway in Mosul; in fact, it has worsened as Christmas approaches, Mgr Louis Sako told AsiaNews. For the archbishop of Kirkuk, this means that “security measures must be strengthened or the holiday season”. Meanwhile, tensions and fear are palpable in the city, made worse by a new attack against two places of worship, killing one person and wounding 40 more. A Christian source, anonymous for security reasons, said that the “community is destined to die”.

In the late morning, a car bomb exploded in front of the Church of the Annunciation in the al- Mohandiseen neighbourhood, damaging walls and windows. The attackers also threw grenades against the nearby Christian school, killing a baby girl and injuring 40 more people, including five high school kids. Saad Younes, father of the 8-day-old child, said that the blast occurred when his daughter and sister-in-law were leaving the nearby hospital.

A second attack targeted the Syro-Catholic Church of the Immaculate in al-Shifaa, a neighbourhood in northern Mosul. An explosive device went off in the street in front of the building’s gate. No one was killed or injured.

Yesterday’s attacks are the latest episodes in a series of violence against Christian places of worship. On 26 November, terrorists razed to the ground the Church of Saint Ephrem and the Mother House of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine. A source told AsiaNews that most nuns left; only a few have remained but “are afraid of going out”.

Such attacks are a “warning” for Christians to leave en masse. Many “families have fled north, into Kurdistan, but are jobless and have no hope for the future. The Christian community is destined to die,” the source said.

Mgr Louis Sako shares this concern. For the archbishop of Kirkuk, “ethnic and religious cleansing” is underway in Mosul. The central government and parties are concerned only about the elections, scheduled for 7 March 2010, especially about “sharing the oil”.

The city’s political situation is complex. Arabs control local power; Kurds do not participate in the municipal council; and there is a strong presence of fundamentalist groups and members of Saddam Hussein’s old regime.

“The situation is very tense,” Mgr Sako said. “Just last week to Christian brothers were killed and two more were abducted. Where was the local government? And the Central government? Where are the representatives of the ruling parties?” the prelate asked.

Nevertheless, he said he hopes to see the Christian community achieve greater cohesion within to build a “strong power base” that can reject violence.

For the prelate, one possible response is for “Churches and Christian parties to make a strong statement, reiterating their steadfastness, and their commitment to Iraq, peace and coexistence between ethnic groups and religions. [. . .] To destroy this mosaic is to destroy Iraq,” he said. (DS)

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