Wednesday, July 15, 2009

013. Iraq: Bombing of churches sends dark message

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 013 | Wed 15 July 2009


Islamic jihadists launched an orchestrated terror campaign against Iraq's indigenous Christian community on Sunday 12 July 09, detonating improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at seven Baghdad churches, killing four and wounding dozens of people. Six of the IEDs were in car bombs, and the churches -- which are set well back from the road behind high walls and guarded gates -- were not severely damaged. But the message of the bombings is clear: Christians should leave. This is a warning from militants whose agenda includes the elimination of Christianity.

The first bombing was actually on Saturday night at St Joseph's Church in western Baghdad where two bombs placed inside the church exploded at about 10 pm. No one was in the church at the time. Then on Sunday 12 July three IEDs detonated between 4.30pm and 4.45pm outside two churches in al-Karrada district, central Baghdad, and one in al-Ghadeer, eastern Baghdad. Eight were wounded as worshippers were arriving for evening Mass. Three others were wounded by a bomb detonated outside St James Church in Dora district, southern Baghdad. Four were killed and 21 injured at the Chaldean Catholic Church of the Virgin Mary in central Baghdad, where a large car bomb detonated just after 7 pm as worshippers were leaving Mass. The blast reverberated across the city, damaging the church and scorching nearby cars. At much the same time, 21 people (including 15 Christians) were wounded when another Chaldean church was targeted.

That morning in Northern Iraq, a senior Christian government official, Aziz Rizko Nissan, head of the provincial audit department, was assassinated at 8.15am outside his home in the volatile, contested city of Kirkuk. Then on Monday 13 July, a car bomb exploded outside Our Lady of Fatima Church in Mosul's Faisalia neighbourhood, injuring three children and damaging both the church and a nearby Shia mosque.

The Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reports that Assyrian sources received text messages five days earlier warning of the impending attacks. Those warnings were immediately passed on to US forces who notified the Iraqi military. (Under new security arrangements, US forces are not permitted to act.) Despite the advance warnings, no preventative measures were enacted.

The 'real' war for Iraq is looming. This war -- which could well become a regional war -- will pit Arabs plus Turkmen against Kurds (for Kirkuk and control of the north); federalists against nationalists; Sunnis against Shi'ites; militant fundamentalists against moderates. Amidst this, the indigenous Christian remnant are extremely vulnerable, traumatised and at risk of genocide. Since the 2003 occupation their numbers have halved as hundreds of thousands have fled their homeland. According to Youssef Bahgat, a guard outside Baghdad's Evangelical Christian Union Church, 'There is fear among Christians.' Iraqi Christian Sabhan George is concerned about the church bombings. If this continues, he said, 'there will be no Christians left in Iraq.'

'In all their affliction, he was afflicted.' (Isaiah 63:9a ESV)


* God to rescue, protect, preserve and sanctify his Church.

* God to 'frustrate the ways of the wicked'. (Psalm 146:9 NIV)

* the Holy Spirit to fill the Iraqi Church -- in Iraq and in exile -- with wisdom and insight to know God's will so that in the midst of all this conflict and terror she might walk worthily and please him (Colossians 1:9,10). May the Spirit give her comfort and hope amidst trauma, and grace for her 'enemies'.



Sunday's string of bombings targeting seven churches across Baghdad is a warning from terrorists who want to see Iraq rid of Christians. This terror campaign, which killed four and injured dozens, sends a dark message: Christians should flee before they are killed. The fatalities occurred outside the Chaldean Catholic Church in central Baghdad, where a large explosion at 7pm hit worshippers as they were leaving Mass. In northern Iraq, a Christian leader was assassinated in Kirkuk on Sunday 12 July and next day a bomb exploded outside a church in Mosul. The Assyrian and Chaldean Christians are the indigenous people of Iraq. Since the 2003 occupation their numbers have halved as hundreds of thousands have fled their homeland. The remnant is extremely vulnerable and at risk of genocide. Please pray for the Iraqi Church.