where security forces coped with the aftermath of Sunday’s terrorist attacks against churches in which up to 15 Christians died and scores of other believers were injured.
The latest insurgent attack on Iraq’s battered police, who have been pressured to improve the protection of Christians, came after two U.S. soldiers were killed and two others were wounded by a bomb explosion late Monday in Iraq’s capital, while an American Marine died in action Tuesday west of Baghdad, The Associated Press (AP) quoted the military as saying.
Amid the violence, Christians, including survivors and other frightened believers, were planning to flee Iraq and others said they were scared to visit Sunday services. "I am now scared to go to church," the injured Louis Climis, a leader in the Syriac Catholic community, told Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper.
He was helping the priest during the mass when a car bomb exploded outside his church in the heavily Christian Karada district of Baghdad, the paper groups say at least hundreds and possible thousands already fled to neighboring Jordan and Syria. (Pictured: Injured Christians waiting for hospital, AFP/Times of Oman).reported. "I feel I am a target," he said. Human rights
One Christian, 46-year old Wissam Sagman, tried unsuccessfully to leave the country earlier, fearing his Christian family would not be safe in the new, chaotic Iraq, AP reported. Now, after a series of bombings at churches in Baghdad and Mosul his fear of Moslim neighbors has grown and he wants to leave.
"I expected something would happen, but I tried not to think about it," he told reporters. "These people, they love blood. They hate humanity. They hate us," Sagman was quoted as saying, as he looked around his wrecked living room, damaged from a car bomb attack on an Armenian church across the street. "They want all the Christians to leave," he told AP. (Pictured: Iraqi civilian man carries injured person to safety)
Moderate Moslim leaders have also condemned the attacks however. Before the blasts, two Christian children, aged 6 and 16, were "massacred" in Baghdad, said the well informed assyrianchristians.com website, which investigates the plight of Iraq’s Christians, who are mainly ethnic Assyrians.
It claimed Assyrian Raneed Raad, 16, and her 6-year old sister Raphid were "slaughtered" in their home, showing pictures of bloodied bodies, which the web site says were from the gruesome attack. "The family who are well known Assyrian Christians had been threatened. While the family was out, terrorists entered and shot the two Children at point blank range," the organization said.
Yet despite the violence, Christian aid agencies vowed to continue work in the country, said the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), which supports humanitarian efforts with communications.
SHAKEN AID WORKER
Edmond Adam, interim director of the Middle East Council of Churches aid agency, reportedly looked visibly shaken by the attacks. But as workers chipped broken glass out of a frame in the front window that faces the church across the street, Adam insisted he would continue his work, IRIN said.
"We cannot stop, because this is our faith as (Christian) churches in the Middle East," Adam told IRIN. "We will not give up."Iraqi leaders have condemned the violence trying to quell fear among the country’s roughly 750,000 Christian that they were routed from the country by militants who see them as collaborators of the U.S.-led coalition. News reports said Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, called the attacks "hideous crimes."
(Pictured: people fleeing the bomb explosions Sunday).
We "Christians are like the Jews of Iraq," an unidentified Iraqi-American businessman who runs a security firm and an information technology business used by foreign companies, told IRIN. U.S. military officials have said the attacks did not appear to be suicide bombings.
The Middle East Coucil of Churches said the violence was "an evil effort to divide Iraqi Muslims and Christians who are bound together in citizenship and who share a common history." In a statement seen by BosNewsLife the organization said that they have "a common vision for a democratic Iraq, free of foreign occupation," adding that it was praying that "God Almighty will shed his mercy upon the victims of these atrocities in Iraq and restore peace to the land."
An Assyrian Christian leader, Ken Joseph Jr., urged Christians worldwide, to demand protection for the Church in Iraq. However American military officials suggested they were impressed with the way Iraqi police forces were trying to cope with the volatile situation in the troubled nation.
"Iraqi police provided a professional, rapid response to each of these attacks," Lt Col James Hutton, public affairs office for the 1st Cavalry Division US military, said in a press statement. Hutton condemned insurgent activity targeting Iraqi civilians. "Iraq’s movement to a better future will not be undermined by the cowards who built these weapons to attack innocent Iraqi citizens," IRIN quoted him as saying.