Iraqi Christians Attacked Over Christmas Holidays

Prelate Says it May Speed Up Exodus

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KIRKUK, Iraq, JAN. 7, 2010 ( An Iraqi prelate is decrying the situation of Christians in his country who have been experiencing a new wave of attacks over Christmas and the first days of 2010.

Archbishop Louis Sako of the Kirkuk Archdiocese in Northern Iraq told Aid to the Church in Need that these “miserable” conditions are forcing Christians to flee to the north.

He voiced his concern that this crisis will lead to another mass exodus of Christians determined to “leave the country for good.”

On Christmas morning, a church was attacked in Bartilla, 30 miles north of Mosul, where the majority of the population is Christian.

A car bomb exploded in the marketplace of that same town on Monday, damaging many homes and shops and injuring a dozen people.

The report stated that three Christians have also been murdered in Mosul, and a Christian student was kidnapped from her university in that city.

The archbishop stated: “Who is behind the attacks? There is no proof.”

Seeking peace

He guessed that the motive may be political, and that “some attacks are intended to postpone the elections or to cancel them or even determine what happens in them.”

Aid to the Church in Need stated that this situation is motivating many Christians to move north to the “relative peace” in the region that is controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government.

However, Archbishop Sako pointed out that the Christians are encountering other problems when they arrive to the northern towns, including poor living conditions and a lack of opportunities.

“In Kurdistan,” he said, “the security is quite good, but there are no jobs, no services and facilities in the new villages built by the Kurdish government.”

“Therefore many families are leaving the country for good,” the prelate added.

He underlined his concern over the rapid emigration of Christians from Iraq and the diminishing community there.

Power struggle

The archbishop stated: “In years gone by, Christians left their houses and property and reached a secure area in the hope of being back soon. But now six years have passed.

“They want to be settled. They have no jobs, no schools and they have big problems with the language.

“There are no services — electricity, portable water, infrastructure are their problems.”

He appealed to politicians in his region to attend to the humanitarian crisis rather than the political scene of the upcoming elections.

The archbishop affirmed: “The local and central government should protect the citizens. Now all the political groups are busy with the elections. There is a real struggle for power.”

The aid agency noted that the Vatican directly requested prioritising help for the Middle East. It responded by sending some $72,000 in emergency assistance to the displaced Christians there.

In Benedict XVI’s Christmas message, he stated: “How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the ‘little flock’ of Christians which lives in the region?

“At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbor.”

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