IRAQ: 11 die in church bombings

A wave of car-bombs was detonated at five Iraqi churches between 6.00p.m. and 7.00 p.m. on Sunday 1st August. Four churches were in Baghdad, and one in Mosul. Bombs planted at one, possibly two, other churches failed to explode. At least 11 people died with over 50 injured.

As Sunday is a working day in Iraq, the main Christian worship services are held in the evening, so the timing of the bombs was clearly intended to cause the maximum Christian casualties. Furthermore, 1st August is a holy day for some denominations in Iraq, the start of a special month of fasting.

Christians believe the aim of the bombs was not only to kill and maim as many as possible but also to frighten them into leaving the country, and this was also reported on Al-Arabiya TV. Many thousands of Christians have already fled to Syria and Jordan, and this wave of bombings is sure to cause even more to want to leave, though some are too poor to afford a passport.

The apparently coordinated attacks have been universally condemned by Muslim leaders in Iraq, both Sunni and Shia, as well as by many ordinary Muslims.

Contrary to some early news reports, this was not the first time that churches and Christian religious buildings in Iraq have been targeted since the fall of Saddam Hussein. In September 2003, there was a missile attack on a convent in Mosul while in November 2003, bombs discovered at two Christian schools, in Mosul and Baghdad, accompanied by messages ordering them to convert to Islam or be killed. In December 2003, a bomb exploded at a church in Baghdad on Christmas Eve and another bomb was discovered at a monastery in Mosul and defused

There have also been many attacks on Christian shops and businesses. Christians have been threatened, victimised and several have been assassinated. Women in the south are being forced for the first time to cover their hair like Muslim women. On 4 January 2004 a group of more than 200 mainly Muslim intellectuals and political leaders from Iraq called for an end to the attacks on Christians.

(Barnabas Fund)