By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (BosNewsLife)– Security forces on Wednesday, September 28, still searched for three Iraqi Christians, a week after they were reportedly kidnapped by suspected militants in Iraq’s northern city of Kirkuk.
“Gunmen in a modern vehicle blocked the Christians’ way, set their white Landrover [car] on fire, killed their hunting dogs and led them to an unknown destination,” Iraq’s Alsumaria television quoted a police source as saying.
The attack reportedly happened last Wednesday night September 21 in Kirkuk’s southern Daquq district after they returned from a nearby hunting trip.
“Iraqi police and army mobilized their troops and launched a search campaign looking for the three kidnapped Christians,” added the source, speaking on condition of anonymity amid apparent security concerns.
The names of the Christians were not immediately released.
Last week’s incident came after several other anti-Christian attacks in recent weeks, including a car bomb that exploded in August near a church in central Kirkuk, injuring 19 civilians including five Christians, Alsumaria reported.
A special anti-explosives unit reportedly managed to detonate another car bomb near another church in central Kirkuk.
It comes amid concerns about church leaders that revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, known as ‘the Arab Spring’ will lead to rising Islamic extremism in the area.
“The Arab Spring has created more Muslim militants,” said the Chaldean Archbishop in Kirkuk Louis Sako in published remarks.
CHRISTIANS BECOMING “EXTINCT”
In a statement distributed by the Assyrian International News Agency he said there was a danger that all Christians in Iraq will “become extinct”
“They could disappear altogether as a result of continuous persecution, threats and violence,” he explained.
Between the U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq in 2003 and today, there have been attacks against roughly 60 Churches while at least one bishop and three priests were kidnapped and killed, according to church estimates.
Some one thousand Christians were killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes, with many now living in neighboring nations or Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq, rights groups and Christians say.
This is why, “in Iraq and in other countries, there is a risk of the Christian community becoming extinct,” Bishop Sako said.
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY APPEAL
He urged the international community to help develop “a clear political vision and clearly set out plans.” The world, he stressed, should “not just protect and encourage Christians to stay in their country, but also promote reconciliation among the Iraqis, and human rights,” as well as to “ensure governments respect the rules.”
There are currently 44,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, with all scheduled to leave by the end of this year.
But concerns about Iraq’s stability and continued attacks have reportedly spurred Washington and Baghdad to reconsider the deadline.
This week Iraq signed an estimated $3 billion deal to buy 18 fighter jets from the United States, in a measure aimed at protecting its air space alone after years of relying on help from American pilots, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.