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    » 04/18/2007, 00.00

    IRAQ

    Islamic group in Baghdad: “Get rid of the cross or we will burn your Churches”.



    In the Dora quarter threats continue to be made against Christians. In the last two months Christian parishes have been forced to give in to extremist pressure, only the Church of Sts Peter and Paul has withstood so far. A fatwa forbids the practice of Christian ritual gestures. The US army occupies Babel College, property of the Chaldean Patriarchate.

    Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “Get rid of the cross or we will burn your Churches”. This is the threat aimed at the Chaldean Church of Sts Peter and Paul, located in the ancient Christian quarter of Baghdad, Dora. Local sources say an unknown armed Islamic group is behind the threats which are inseminating terror in the capital.  The Arab website Ankawa.com and Aina news agency speak of a campaign of persecution in act in the area.  Even Mosul, a Sunni stronghold, the Christian presence is being gravely threatened.  

     

    Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, tells AsiaNews “in the last 2 months many Churches have been forced to remove their crosses from their domes”.  In the case of the Church of St. George, assira, Muslim extremists took the situation into their own hands: they climbed onto the roof and ripped out the cross.  In the Chaldean Church of St John, in Dora, which has been without a pastor for months now, the parishioners themselves decided to move the cross to a safer place following repeated threats.   

     

    The same threats which have arrived at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, which has so far however withstood intimidation: the cross hasn’t been removed but the threats continue.  “The Iraqi people are tired – says Warduni – we have been suffering for far too long the situation has become unsustainable; we ask God to give us peace.  The Christians, just like the Muslims, want to rebuild Iraq, we don’t want to be forced to flee, because this is where we were born, this is where we have lived our lives”.

     

    The Islamic group active in Dora seems to have delivered an ultimatum to the Christian community there: convert to Islam or die; moreover reports say that they have delivered a Fatwa forbidding Christians to wear the cross or make any religious gesture.  It also permits the confiscation of goods and properties belonging to the Christian families who find themselves forced to flee their homes for safety at short notice.

     

    Baghdad’s Christian community’s worries have been added to by the US military’s decision to forcibly occupy Babel College, property of the Chaldean Church.  The Babel, the only faculty of theology in the country, houses on of the most ancient religious libraries in the region, full of priceless manuscripts.  Because of the increased insecurity in the city and continual abductions of religious the faculty had transferred to Ankawa, in Kurdistan January last, leaving the building empty. The US military are now using it as an observation outpost.  The building is located at a strategic crossroads: within a Sunni enclave, in front of a Shiite district.  Leaders from the local Church are discussing the issue with military representatives.  Apparently they have promised to abandon the structure in the coming weeks.

     

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    See also

    07/10/2008 IRAQ
    Mosul, another "targeted murder" against the Christian community
    A disabled 25-year-old shopkeeper was killed yesterday, not far from the shop that he owned. The objective of the fundamentalists is to shut down the activities of Christians and force them to flee. A source for AsiaNews denounces the "complicity" of the police, and the "curtain of silence" that has fallen across the slaughter.

    22/05/2007 IRAQ
    Free, but “deeply marked” the Chaldean priest kidnapped in Baghdad
    Fr. Nawzat P. Hanna was released yesterday after three days in captivity. Currently he is in safe keeping in the capital, but he bares marks of having been beaten. Baghdad’s auxiliary bishop: “Let u spray that these episodes do not happen again and that our priest finds the courage to remain in Iraq, to serve his Church”.

    20/03/2008 IRAQ
    Chaldean Christians, after five years the crestfallen dream of Iraq
    Five years after the American invasion of Iraq, we publish the testimony sent to AsiaNews by a Chaldean Christian in Mosul. The community is still in shock over the loss of its pastor, Archbishop Rahho, killed by his kidnappers this month. The questions that still surround what is today the last stronghold of al Qaeda in Iraq.

    24/05/2007 IRAQ
    Iraqi government offers its “full support” to the persecuted Christians of Baghdad
    In an official statement the Iraqi cabinet pledges protection to Christian families persecuted by Islamic extremists and condemns all violence perpetrated against the Christian community. Christians in Iraq welcome favourably the government’s statement, but call for “concrete steps”. Muslim religious leaders speak out in defence of their “Christian brothers”.

    04/01/2007 IRAQ
    Theological university and seminary leave unsafe Baghdad and head north
    Babel College and the Chaldean major seminary were officially transferred to Kurdistan after months of closure following kidnappings and threats leveled at Christians. The decision had already been in the pipeline for some time: between September and December, the rector and vice-rector of the seminary were kidnapped in Baghdad.



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