Attacks on Churches Stir Fears and Questions

«Iraq Is Our Land, Why Should We Leave?» Asks Patriarch of Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, OCT. 19, 2004 ( After the bombing of churches, and messages calling on Christians to leave Iraq, the patriarch of Baghdad exhorted his flock to stay in the country to build peace.

On Saturday morning, bombs exploded in five churches of Baghdad. Fear spread among Christians, and some stayed away from Sunday Mass.

Attacks against Catholic churches began last August when four churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul were hit. Seven people were killed and dozens injured.

According to the Fides missionary agency, 88 Christians have been killed in Iraq since April 10, 2003.

Because of the violence and insecurity, the Synod of the Chaldean Church, which was to be held this week in Baghdad, has been postponed.

The procurator of the Chaldean Church in Rome, Father Philip Najim, told AsiaNews that the decision was made before the attacks on the five Baghdad churches.

«It is clear that these attacks were carried out to impede Christians of all rites from participating in Sunday religious ceremonies,» he said. The priest attributed the attacks to «dark forces that come from abroad; they are not Iraqis. Iraqi Muslims don’t attack their Christian brothers.»

Messages and pamphlets are being distributed on some streets reading: «Christians go; leave Iraq.»

Bushra, a young Christian student told AsiaNews that the director of her school has been threatened by Muslim terrorists, who insist that he must not allow girl students to come to school without a head scarf.

During the «Hasad al yawm» program transmitted by Al-Jazeera television, Imam Mohammed Bashar Al Fayyaadh assailed Christians for not condemning the U.S. attacks on mosques of Ramadi, in western Iraq.

In an interview with AsiaNews, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Emmanuel Delly said: «Iraq is our homeland, our land. Why should we leave? Why should we go?»

Patriarch Delly pointed out that terrorists have also attacked mosques and said: «We must collaborate to build the peace and welfare of our country.»

Christians in Iraq total 800,000, or 3%, of the population. The Chaldeans, united to Rome, represent 70% of Christians.

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