Iraqi Christians Return Home for Easter

Violence Continues in Baghdad

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MOSUL, Iraq, APRIL 15, 2010 ( The archbishop of Mosul of the Chaldeans is reporting that a record number of people attended Easter Mass in Mosul, as Christians begin to return after fleeing violent attacks.

Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona told Aid to the Church in Need that some 1,500 people attended the Chaldean rite liturgies in Mosul, which is the highest number of attendants in the last few years.

He noted that this is a sign of «new hope» for the survival of Christianity in those parts, which has been threatened by recent murders and violence against Church members.

Some theories pointed to the March 7 general elections in Iraq as the cause of the increased violence and tension.

Attacks against Christians leading up to the elections caused more than 3,500 of the faithful, some 50% of the Church community in that region, to flee to villages in the Nineveh plains.

The aid agency reported that the refugees have started to return home.

«The people clearly feel more confident after the elections,» Archbishop Nona said. «They have faith that things will now improve.»
<br>He noted that it is «too difficult» at present to predict whether the thousands of Christians who have been fleeing violence in Mosul since 2003 will return. In the last seven years, two-thirds of the Chaldean-rite Catholic community has fled.

Security measures

For now, however, the archbishop reported that «the Easter celebrations went very well.»

Armed security men guarded the four Mosul churches where the Chaldean Catholic liturgies were held. The services that were normally held in the evening, including the Easter Vigil Mass, were moved to earlier hours before dark in order to reduce the security risk.

«I am really happy about the way it went and it was clear the people felt happy too,» the prelate added.

He said that there were «people coming to the church who had not come for two or three years.»

Aid to the Church in Need also received a message from Archbishop Louis Sako in the northern city of Iraq, describing peaceful Easter celebrations in which government and Muslim leaders participated.

However, the aid agency noted that farther south, in Baghdad, at least five people died and 140 were injured in six explosions.

The agency worked with the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, also known as the Chaldean Sisters, to distribute some 750 Easter hampers of food to Christians and other poor families who have fled their homes.

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