01/31/2006, 00.00
Iraq
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Bombs, but also hidden persecution to drive Christians out of Iraq

Members of the local Chaldean Church speak to AsiaNews about the possible motives behind Sunday's attacks in Kirkuk and Baghdad and tell of the daily threats against their community.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – There is a "hidden reality of persecution" against Iraq's Christians, including daily threats, kidnappings, discrimination and at its worst bomb attacks,  such as last Sunday's series of car bombings against Christian places of worship in Kirkuk and Baghdad. The aim: to feed internal divisions and the ongoing political instability, but also to "drive the Christian community out of Iraq".

This is how the local Chaldean Church explains the January 29th attacks to AsiaNews which revoke "the nightmare of  violence of 2004" for Iraq's Christians, when explosions against 4 churches in Baghdad and 3 in Mosul left 12 people dead and dozens injured. Sunday's death toll was 3 dead, one catholic and two Muslims, with 9 injured.

Responsibility for the blasts has yet to be claimed.  Among the local population the theory is that the bombings were in answer to the deeply contested caricatures of Mohammad published by a Danish newspaper.  But according to Msgr. Rabban Al Qas, Chaldean bishop of Amadiyah and Erbil (Kurdistan), there are very different motives behind the violence.  "It was a well studied plan e – he declares – perhaps from weeks before, car bombs are not built in a matter of days".  The prelate hypothesizes that behind this most recent violence there are "forces intent on destabilising the and dividing the country". "Moreover  – he adds  – the continuing attempt by Arab fanatic's to push the Christians out of Iraq".  The bishop relays that in a meeting held on January 28th last between prelates from the Orthodox, Syrian rite Catholic and Chaldean churches in the northern diocese, the urgency of "the general situation for danger facing the community" was highlighted.  

The persecution of  Christians does not only manifest itself in strong and symbolic actions but also in the constant discrimination that they face in their daily lives.  AsiaNews gathered just some evidence of this from the community of Mosul.  After the December 15th legislative elections there was hope of an improvement, "but so far nothing has changed" says a young man,  active in parish life of  Holy Spirit Church in Mosul. "In our parish Christians are still kidnapped, we have to pay heavy ransoms so, many choose to leave" .  In Mosul local Christians tell that "in the work place, in public administration we are considered second class citizens : to get a document, for example it takes us far longer than it would a Muslim".  

"Categorically" leaving aside the possibility that a future Iraqi government could drift towards fundamentalism, some local seminarians tell us that Christians are "more or less used to being discriminated against".  "On the streets, in the city, they always throw the same accusations at us: 'infidels of the cross'. Even with Muslims      with whom we are on good terms we always feel the weight of this condemnation".

A Chaldean priest says that after Sunday's bombings "the security outside churches has been increased and we keep saying to people to keep their eyes open. No one wants to relive the nightmare of  2004".   Msgr Al Qas declares that the Nuncio and Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly has appealed for people to "live in prudence".

An average 850 people took part in last Sunday's mass in Holy Spirit  in Mosul.  "Everyone seemed calm and content  – says the parish priest – but I don't know how many will turn up next Sunday". "I hope the faithful will not be scared – he concludes – we have to rebuild our community". (MA)

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