BAGHDAD, Iraq, NOV. 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Last Sunday’s terrorist attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Church, and a subsequent bombing on Tuesday, has left the citizens of Baghdad horrified and wondering what is to come. In a region where Christians have lived in fear for years, the recent attacks have seemingly all but shattered the hope of peace in the region.
“This latest terrorist attack operation will increase fear and help destroy hope,” said Latin Rite Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad. In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, a charity that ministers to persecuted and suffering Christians, the archbishop spoke of the fear that has plagued Christians living in the Middle East.
“[The Christians] are deeply afraid. But they are trying to overcome this latest horrible experience,” he said. “It needs faith and hope — they must abandon themselves to the hand of God.”
Nine armed men, claiming to belong to the Islamic state of Iraq, a Sunni-militant group that is allied with Al-Qaeda, were responsible for the Oct. 31 attack. Some 52 people were killed in the incident, including two Catholic priests: Father Wasim Sabieh and Father Thaier Saad Abdal. A third priest, Father Raphael Qatin, was wounded and died later at the hospital.
Just two days later, a series of bombings and mortar strikes in Baghdad killed at least 64 and wounded more than 200, Aid to the Church in Need reported.
“Christians in Iraq are still experiencing contrasts: persecution and solidarity; pressure and freedom,” said the archbishop. He shared that while Christians living in the northern portion of Iraq have experienced acceptance and the freedom to practice their faith; this is not true for Christians living in other regions. He named Dora and Mosul specifically as areas of danger.
According to the archbishop, prior to the bombings, “fear of the future and of violence, was real, deep and common [to all Christians].” He added that local officials have stated that there may be further attacks. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
Through it all, the archbishop calls for Christians to join together. “Their solidarity is well known,” he said. “It is important for Christians in Iraq to be sure that their presence here is not casual, but necessary for the country. They are building peace just by their presence.”
In the face of such violence and sadness, Archbishop Sleiman holds fast to his faith: “I pray for hope.”