Iraqis Fasting Today for End to Killing Spree

Protest «Heinous» Slayings of Christians in the North

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KIRKUK, Iraq, MARCH 1, 2010 ( With less than a week before national elections, and in the wake of a killing spree in Mosul that left eight Christians dead in 10 days, the archbishop of Kirkuk has declared today a day of fasting and prayer.

During his homily Sunday, Archbishop Louis Sako decried the killings in northern Iraq that are leading more Christians to flee the country.

Mosul is about 360 kilometers (220 miles) north of Baghdad; Kirkuk is roughly between the two cities.

“The targeting of innocent Christians, especially in these days in Mosul, in a barbarous manner, coinciding with the elections, is a shameful act,» the archbishop said. «It affects the design of God who created us different, violates human rights, hits the national partnership and insults religious values. […]

“Wiping out Christianity from the region, or forcing [Christians] to follow the Islamic banner, will only lead the country to become more radical.

“Therefore we have chosen to fast and pray in protest against these heinous acts and in solidarity with our brothers, confident that the justice of God is inevitable.»

Motives are unclear for the killing spree in Mosul, though Archbishop Sako attributed it to «tension and struggle between political forces.»

«It is unfortunate that the country today is going more toward ethnic intolerance, religious and sectarian division,» he said.

This Sunday’s elections are expected to be complicated at best. Many candidates were barred because of ties to Saddam Hussein’s party and it is unclear if any group will emerge with enough votes to make a government. If not, tensions between rival Muslim groups are only expected to deteriorate further.

The last murder in Mosul was less than a week ago: A father and his two sons were killed in their home, in front of his wife and daughter.

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