Iraqi Christians Respond to Attacks

''We are a minority and we have no power. We are peaceful people. If attacks continue our numbers will decline.''
( [email protected] ) Oct 18, 2004 04:52 PM EDT

Explosions that rocked five churches in Iraq have prompted Christians to consider leaving Iraq, news agencies reported Saturday.

"If they don't want us in Iraq, let them say it and we will leave," said Samir Hermiz, 40, standing next to a church that was reduced to ashes. "I'm really thinking of leaving Iraq."

Under the rule of Saddam Hussein, many Iraqi Christians did not have much say, but there were also significantly fewer direct attacks on them, reported Reuters. Now Christians feel that threatened amid the increasing number of bombings and shootings directed toward Christians.

Like many in his community, storekeeper Nabil Khawam fears they be attacked by increasing violent extremists. "We are a minority and we have no power. We are peaceful people. If attacks continue our numbers will decline," he said.

Iraq’s Christian minority, numbering only 650,000 people, makes up only 3% of total population. This number is likely to decline, with many Christians already picking up their families and belonging and moving to neighboring countries.

"They are infidels...infidels... They have no faith," Kamil Shabo, a 40-year-old laborer, said of the bombers. “It is a religious sanctuary, how could they attack a religious place?"

If given the chance to immigrate or work abroad, Shabo says that he would never return to Iraq. Many Christians unfortunately are unable to leave the violence, given the high cost of moving and limited accessibility to neighboring countries due to border security.

Khamina Nanno, 24, was always happy to attend the Catholic Church in Karrada, now a ruinous shell of what was once a beautiful building. She had always attended weekly mass as well as Bible studies. But now, what was once considered a holy sanctuary has become a target of foreign extremists.

"They want to create a sectarian war and unrest between Islam and Christianity," Nanno said, wiping away her tears as she saw her statuary now filled with ash and debris. “I will come tomorrow for the mass. I don't care if I die. At least I will die in a place of worship and go to [heaven]."