Coordinated blasts rock churches in Iraq

By January 9, 2008

Iraq (MNN) — Compass Direct reports that four Iraqi churches and three convents were damaged in coordinated bomb blasts Sunday. It's a day on which many Iraqi Christians celebrate either Epiphany or Christmas Eve, according to some Eastern liturgical calendars.

Sites hit in Mosul:

    – Chaldean Church of Saint Paul

    – Nunnery of Dominican Sisters

    – Orphanage of the Chaldean Sisters

Sites hit in Baghdad:

    – Rum Orthodox Church (where the guard was injured)

    – Mar Ghorghis chaldean church in Ghadir area

    – Saint Paul Chaldean Church in Zafaraniya area where, according to Mgr. Warduni, the carbomb was discovered before its explosion and defused.

    – Chaldean Sisters Nunnery in Zafaraniya

According to the reports, the blasts occurred within five minutes of each other at approximately 11:00 a.m. There were no fatalities, but Open Doors' Carl Moeller confirms the report and thinks it was geared to send a message to the remnant church. "The message that the terrorists want to send to the Christian community is, 'We don't want you here'."

With the vast majority of Iraq's violence stemming from Sunni-Shiite fighting, it's hard to say whether the typical association of Christianity with the West is the main cause of attacks against Iraqi Christians.

The violence has forced nearly 40% of the Christian population to seek refuge in the North in Kurdistan. Pope Benedict XVI on Monday called for Iraq's constitution to include provisions to protect minorities, including Christians. 

"Our call to the church is to stand with them, to answer their requests for help. It's not that they want to flee: they want to stay in their homes; they want to stay in their communities. But they need help," Moeller explains. Many are forced to live hand-to-mouth and are in dire need of supplies. Fleeing North presents a whole different set of problems. 

There are some groups of Christians who fled with the clothes on their backs. That means they're facing a winter without enough warm clothes or shelter. Many of them stayed until the last possible moment. Moeller says that's where Open Doors comes in. "They need the assistance of particular organizations like Open Doors to provide the necessary means for them to stay."

Christian IDPs and refugees need relief supplies, structural help and spiritual counseling. Open Doors supports them in the basics of every day life: food, housing, heating, clothes and medical care. In Syria and Jordan, Open Doors helps with similar relief for the neediest families among the refugees.

The situation isn't improving much. Islamist groups are reputed to have purged Christians from entire neighborhoods. The blasts brought an end to a fragile peace that Iraq's Christian minority had begun to enjoy in recent months.

Moeller explains, "That is why Open Doors and other agencies are working very hard right now to strengthen the Christian community there, to make sure that a witness remains in that country, and that the cause of Christ continues to go forward, despite the attacks of the enemy."

Through helping the refugees, Open Doors has the opportunity to establish a relationship of trust, which could revive the faith of nominal Christians who are frustrated with religion because they feel that their spiritual leaders did not care for them as they should.

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