The fears of Christians were realized Sunday in Iraq as extremists triggered a series of coordinated explosions outside five Christian churches across Baghdad and the northern city of Monsul, resulting in the deaths of at least 11 worshippers and the wounding of over 50, according to reports. They were the first attacks targeting the country's Christian miniority amidst a violent 15-month insurgency.
During Sunday evening services, two explosions, just minutes apart, shook Baghdad churches in a largely Christian neighborhood followed shortly by two more explosions at churches in other areas of the capital. At roughly the same time, a car bomb and grenade attack hit a church in Mosul, about 220 miles north of Baghdad.
"These attacks are acts against humanity and all human and religious principles," the Bishop of Amadiya, Rabban al Qas told AsiaNews. "We as Christians want an Iraq that is at peace and living in brotherhood. But these terrorists want nothing at all. Still, terrorist fundamentalism will not stop the birth of a new Iraq."
Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller commented, "These attacks Sunday on churches, especially in the Baghdad area, just heighten the fear and anxiety level of the Christian minority in Iraq. Christians who were already living in a constant state of fear. As a result, we need to raise our prayer level this week. We need to lift up our petitions to the Lord for our suffering brothers and sisters with a renewed passion."
Moeller said that Christians in the West need to support and pray for the struggling Christian community in Iraq. "Pray especially for families who losted loved ones in the attacks. Pray for the wounded. Pray for religious freedom for Christians as a new government is formed. Pray for peace."
Numbering some 750,000 the Christian minority was already concerned about the growing tide of Islamic fundamentalism, so long repressed under Saddam Hussein. Many had fled to neighboring countries such as Jordan and Syria to wait until the security and political situation became more calm.
The majority of Christians in Iraq are Chaldean Roman Catholic, the rest Syrian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox and Assyrian. Most live in Baghdad and its outskirts and some dwell further north.