By Joseph C. DeCaro, BosNewsLife International Correspondent with BosNewsLife Middle East Service
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)– Christians in northern Iraq mourned a Christian father and his 6-year-old daughter Wednesday, November 17, after they were killed in a bomb attack, the latest in a string of strikes against the country’s dwindling Christian population.
The man and his daughter were killed late Tuesday, November 16, in the city of Mosul when an explosive attached to a vehicle detonated, Christians said.
The previous night, attackers went into two Christian homes in the Tahrir neighborhood, killing the male heads of the households and then driving off, according to local Christians. At about the same time, another bomb detonated outside a Christian home, wounding a bystander, church leaders said.
“Security officials gave us assurances,” said Fayez al-Shamani, a priest in Mosul’s Mar Afram Syrian Orthodox church. However, “We know they cannot put a police car near every Christian house in the city,” he said, adding that those killed “were only guilty of being Christians.”
Many Christian families in Iraq fear for their safety and want to leave the country, but they just don’t have the financial means to do, Christian leaders said.
Christians have endured a series of attacks in Baghdad since All Saints Eve when militants attacked the Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral, leaving 70 dead and 75 wounded, including two priests. A few days later, Muslims attacked Christians homes throughout the capital Baghdad, killing five more.
An al-Qaida affiliated group claimed responsibility for both attacks, announcing its intention to kill Christians wherever they live.
Recent violence against Christians prompted the United States, the United Nations Security Council and an American Catholic archbishop to express their concerns for minority religious groups in Iraq.
The patriarch of Iraq’s largest Christian community, Cardinal Emmanuel Delly III of the Chaldean Catholic Church, urged his fellow Christians in a televised address last week to stand firm during these difficult times.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) asked American officials to make a special effort to protect Iraqi Christians, Yazidis and Mandaean minorities.
“Given the United States’ continued military presence there, we urge the administration to work with the Iraqi government to proactively heighten security at Christian and other minority religious sites,” said USCIRF chairman Leonard Leo.
“The United States also should press its allies in the region to be increasingly vigilant of the threats by extremists targeting religious minority communities and work together to reduce these threats, in order to secure their well being and help prevent the continued exodus of Christians and other minorities from the Middle East,” Leo added. (With editing by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).