‘Jihadists’ Target Free Iraq, Not Just Christians

Southern Baptist worker says church bombings targeted symbols of a free Iraq, not Christians specifically
( [email protected] ) Aug 13, 2004 11:24 AM EDT

Eleven people were killed and dozens injured in Baghdad and Mosul when car bombs exploded outside churches of Iraq’s historic Christian communities. The coordinated bombings, said to be the work of a rag-tag alliance composed of extreme Muslim “holy warriors”, was aimed on provoking a civil war in Iraq, creating chaos that would give the “Jihadists” an opportunity to take control, one Southern Baptist worker told the Baptist Press.

According to the worker, extremists who had participated in the bombings on Aug. 1, targeted the congregations as symbols of a free Iraq and not specifically because they were Christian. The Jihadists—composed of Islamic extremists, members of the disposed dictator’s Baath Party, criminals freed by Saddam Hussein just before the fall of Baghdad and unemployed former members of the Iraqi army and security forces—are drawn from many nations and from different sects of Islam, the worker said.

“The are temporarily united against anyone who opposes their radical Islamic-republic views. … Members of the Christian minority are being included in the anarchists’ attack against an emerging pluralistic society.”

The worker added that the recent creation of an Iraqi government and steps being taken toward democracy have raised the stakes for factions who want to control the country and its vast oil wealth.

“Jihadists see the present situation as an opportunity to assert universal control over Iraq, something they could never have dreamed of achieving under Saddam Hussein,” he added. “This group is opposed to every form of authority and religion but their own narrow band of Islamic belief,” the worker said.

Immediately following the attack, Iraqi Sunni and Shiite religious leaders joined Christian and political leaders, denouncing the bombing of five churches in Iraq as criminal acts aimed at undermining Iraqi unity.

"We condemn these attacks regardless of the party standing behind them," said Mohammed Bashar al-Faidi, spokesman for the Muslim Ulemas, the highest Sunni religious authority.

Al-Faidi denied allegations that the church bombings might be linked to attempts by American and European missionaries to preach Christianity in Iraq.

"The aim of the church bombings is strictly political, not religious, and like similar bombings that targeted mosques, they are meant to instigate sectarian and confessional strife among the one Iraqi people," he said.

In Najaf, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shiite religious authority, also denounced the bombings.

Many Iraqi citizens, however, are reluctant to oppose extremists who they fear could become Iraq’s new dictators, the worker continued.

"Much of what needs to happen in Iraqi economic and social development is waiting for a more secure environment," he said. "The day when Iraqis rise up against those who do these acts will be moved forward if the government and their allies succeed in these efforts. In turn, that day will result in movement on other vital fronts."

The worker asked for Christians around the world to pray for the Iraqi leaders and families as the nation awaits a more secure environment.

“Pray for their physical, emotional and spiritual healing. Pray also that the glorious light of Jesus Christ would dawn upon them in this dark hour.’