12/06/2010, 00.00
IRAQ

Two more Christians murdered overnight in Baghdad

The killings prompt exodus. Some 500 families fleeing from Baghdad and Mosul to the north. That might not hold up to the influx of refugees. Meanwhile, the government promises 400 dollars in aid to every family that leaves.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - An Christian elderly couple was killed in their home last night: the latest in a long series of bloody episodes involving Christians. According to the little information so far provided by an Interior Ministry spokesman gunmen broke into the couple in the neighbourhood of Baladiyat, a predominantly Shiite area . Hikmat Sammak and his wife, Samira had sold their house in Baghdad and gone to live in Ainkawa-Erbil in the north. Two days ago, they had returned to Baghdad to complete the transaction and sell their furniture. During the night the criminals broke into their home, bound them and stabbed them to death. Today, their bodies have been transferred to the monastery of St. Matthew at Ba Ashika for burial.

This latest act of violence came the same day Benedict XVI in his Angelus asked the faithful to pray for an end to the violence involving Christians and Muslims, that is sowing death in Iraq. Within hours of the murderer gen. Qassim Atta told a news conference that those responsible for deadly attacks on Christians, and other attacks in the country, are fifteen “non-Iraqi” Arabs, a euphemism for foreign terrorists.

And in this situation of growing insecurity the exodus of Iraqi Christian families to the north of the country continues. After the barrage of attacks on churches and private property of the community in Baghdad and Mosul about 500 families are now moving into the semi autonomous region of Kurdistan, according to estimates reported by the newspaper Azzaman. In Sulaimaniyah alone, at least 85 families arrived within two weeks. The displaced people leave behind them homes, possessions and their work, as well as parishes and monasteries, among the oldest in Christendom.

Their pain is not relieved by the guarantee of a government "in progress". Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is forming the new government on behalf of President Jalal Talabani. The Prime Minister has ensured that the new government will be formed by Dec. 30. But the political deadlock that has continued for nine months in Iraq gives little hope to the Christian community. After stopping a cell of al Qaeda held responsible for the 31 October at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation in the capital, the authorities have promised to give 400 US dollars to every family who decides to leave their homes. "They are crumbs” some Christians have said: the sum can not even pay one month's rent for an apartment in the North.

The Kurdish government in Erbil has promised to help the incoming refugees, but experts believe it will be difficult to manage such a large influx of migrants. Not everyone, however, has decide to flee. Especially in Mosul, Christians live in fear but there are many who prefer fear to the pain of leaving their homes. Once a community of around one million faithful Christians in Iraq since 2003 have seen their presence almost halved. (LYR)

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