Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Ed West

10/17/2008 (5 years ago)

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

The latest wave of murders followed protests by Christians against the Iraqi Parliament's decision to remove Article 50 of the country's constitution.

Highlights

By Ed West

The Catholic Herald (UK) (www.catholicherald.co.uk/)

10/17/2008 (5 years ago)

Published in Middle East


MOSUL, Iraq (The Catholic Herald - UK) - Thousands of Christians have fled Iraq's second-largest city after a dozen people were murdered in the worst week of violence against the faithful since the US-led invasion.

Around 4,000 Christians have escaped Mosul in northern Iraq to neighbouring villages, creating a potential humanitarian nightmare as winter approaches. Many left without any possessions after receiving written threats, and militants blew up at least three Christian homes after chasing out the owners. The Iraqi government has sent 2,500 additional police to the city to protect churches.

The refugees now face a bleak winter without any food or shelter in what aid workers are calling a "desperate" situation.

Some 25 families fled in one day last week followed by another 50 the next day. It turned into an exodus after 13 Christians were murdered, including a father and son and a disabled man in his twenties. Most victims owned or worked in shops, suggesting a campaign to break the economic strength of the Assyrian Christian community.The exiles have moved north and east to the villages of the Nineveh Plains, the last stronghold of Iraq's Christian minority. In one Christian village, Qaraqosh, more than 1,000 refugees are now staying in schools and churches.

However, Qaraqosh and the others villages in the area are already overwhelmed with Christian refugees from the fighting elsewhere in the country, and Christian charities are preparing emergency food, medicine and shelter.

Albert Michael of the Assyrian Aid Society charity called the conditions "desperate" and said: "There are convoys of blankets and tents being prepared. Most of the people are being housed in churches and monasteries. Many are outside and it's getting chilly, and they can't stay much longer. The problem is what happens when these people return to their homes? Ultimately most of the people have to return. Conditions are very bad."

Mosul has been home to a Christian population for almost nineteen centuries and is close to the site of Nineveh, the capital of the ancient Assyrians, from whom Iraqi Christians claim descent. But since 2003 the city has become an Islamist stronghold and the Christian population has dropped from 25,000 to 7,000.

In March the body of Chaldean Archbishop Paul Faraj Rahho of Mosul was found in a shallow grave in the city two weeks after he was kidnapped. His three bodyguards died in the ambush on the way back from celebrating Mass.

Iraq's Christians, variously called Assyrians, Chaldeans or Syriacs, speak modern Aramaic, similar to the language spoken by Christ, and were among the first groups to convert to Christianity. The majority are members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, which is in full communion with Rome. The second-largest of the country's five major churches is the Assyrian Church of the East, from which the Chaldeans broke away in the 16th century.

The Assyrian population in Iraq fell from 1.3m in 1990 to 800,000 in 2003, and is estimated at only 400,000 today. Almost 800 Christians have been singled out for murder since the US-led invasion, but the level of violence had decreased until last month.

The latest wave of murders followed protests by Christians against the Iraqi Parliament's decision to remove Article 50 of the country's constitution, which guaranteed political representation for the country's minorities, among them Assyrians, Yazidis and Turkomen. Assyrians held protests all over northern Iraq as well as in Australia, California, Sweden and London.

At the beginning of October Hazim Thomaso Youssif, 40, was murdered outside his clothes shop. Gunmen killed Ivan Nuwya, 15, outside his home the same day, and two days later a disabled shop owner was taken away from his shop and murdered. Then Amjad Hadi Petros and his son were shot dead together at their workplace. Since then at least eight more Christians have been murdered, the latest last Sunday.

Some Christians also fled from Baghdad and Kirkuk. Several groups of Muslim gunmen entered churches in Mosul and ordered the parishioners to leave within 10 minutes, permanently close the churches and never return.At least three homes were blown up by unidentified attackers in the Sukkar district of Mosul, regarded by US and Iraqi security forces as one of the last urban bastions of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Local people are unsure of who is responsible for the murders. The Sunni Arab Al Qaeda in Iraq are the main suspects but many believe the Kurds are responsible. Mosul lies just outside the Kurdish Regional Government-controlled area but has a sizeable Kurdish population and the KRG lays claim to both the city and the Christian areas to the north. The KRG has strongly denied that Kurds were responsible.

Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula, governor of Nineveh Province, said it had been a "major displacement" and that the violence was "the fiercest against the Christians since 2003".Speaking from Erbil, 50 miles to the east of Mosul, Chaldean Fr Bashar Warda told Christian charity Aid to the Church in Need: "We are afraid that what is happening in Mosul will develop into a massacre." He said that militants were going from house to house telling Christians to leave and that the people in charge of utility and financial services in the city had warned Christian employees to leave after receiving threats of violence. He also said that the Baghdad government's response was "too little, too late".

Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk said the situation was "critical" and called on the US military to do more to protect Christians and other minorities. "We are the target of a campaign of liquidation, a campaign of violence. The objective is political. We believe it is the responsibility of Americans who occupy our country to protect Iraqis. These attacks are not the first. Unfortunately, they will not be the last. Those who carry out the attacks want to either push Christians out of the country or force them to ally with some political projects."

Last Sunday Pope Benedict XVI said: "I invite you to pray for peace and reconciliation as situations cause concern and great suffering... I think of violence against Christians in Iraq and India."



Comments


More Middle East

Refusing responsibility, Hamas admits to using schools, hospitals as 'human shields' in rocket attacks Watch

Image of The question that remains: Did Hamas deliberately and systematically fire rockets at Israel from homes, hospitals and schools in the hope that Israel would be deterred from retaliating, as Israel claims?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Two weeks after the ceasefire, a Hamas official admits that his organization DID use schools and hospitals in Gaza Strip as "human shields" to launch rocket attacks on Israel. Said official, Ghazi Hamad claims it was "mistake." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) ... continue reading


Stemming tide of ISIS recruits: Nations work to prevent citizens from joining jihadists Watch

Image of While part of Turkey formerly supported the Islamic State, Turkey has since changed its tune after Turks were targeted for violence.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Countries across the globe are disturbed by the high recruitment rates by the Islamic State, who are gathering fighters from all over the world. Working to turn back this deadly tide, nations are formulating policies that will hopefully turn back the tide of ... continue reading


WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO - Jihadi John beheads David Haines (FULL VIDEO) Watch

Image of Haines in the moment before his apparent execution.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Islamic State has beheaded David Haines, and threatened to kill another Briton if the British government continues to ally with the United States against the Islamic State. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Time is running out for Alan Henning, who is next in ... continue reading


WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO - New video surfaces of Islamic State mass execution of 220 Syrian soldiers Watch

Image of At least 220 men were death marched into the desert and slaughtered by cheering Islamic State terrorists.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new video of Islamic State atrocities has surfaced. In this graphic video, Islamic State fighters execute 220 Syrian soldiers en masse. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A new video which shows the Islamic State executing at least 220 captured Syrian soldiers has ... continue reading


U.S. step up pressure on Islamic State's illicit oil sales Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The U.S. Treasury Department says that it plans to step up pressure on the extremist group's illicit oil sales. An integral part of U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to "systematically degrade, dismantle and defeat" the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the ... continue reading


Beheadings? Par for the course in Saudi Arabian courts Watch

Image of Saudis have grown so accustomed to beheadings that Deera Square in Riyadh is sometimes referred to as

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While the on-camera beheadings James Foley and Steven Sotloff by Islamic State jihadists provoked global outrage, the practice remains a routine punishment doled out by courts in Saudi Arabia. Beheadings, along with amputations are regularly carried out against ... continue reading


Islamic State can muster 'between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria' Watch

Image of Analysts had originally estimated that there were as many as 10,000 fighters, including those who were freed from prisons by ISIS and Sunni loyalists who have joined the fight.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The figures are alarming. At onetime presupposed to only number at 10,000, latest CIA estimates now say that the militant jihadist group Islamic State could now put 20,000 to 31,500 ground fighters across Syria and Iraq. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ... continue reading


COME PLAY WITH US? Islamic State teaching their kids how to behead yours Watch

Image of Kids are being taught how to behead westerners. The Islamic State threat may persist for at least another generation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are a lot of tragedies in Islamic State held territory because tens of thousands of people have been brutally killed. There have been other tragedies too, such as the rape of women and forced marriages. But one tragedy that is barely being noticed is the ... continue reading


Islamic State Jihadist put SWORD to her throat, she refused to renounce Christian faith Watch

Image of Told to

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Blade at her neck, 54-year-old Iraqi Christian Khiria Al-Kas Isaac told her attacker that she would rather die than give up her Christian faith. Instead of decapitating her, the Islamists robbed her of all her possessions before eventually driving her from her ... continue reading


Teenage Yazidi girl tells of horrific ordeal as Islamic State sex slave Watch

Image of Allowed to speak to Italian newspaper La Repubblica on her mobile phone, her captors wanted the world to know about her horrendous treatment.

By Catholic Online - (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A teenage Iraqi girl, a member of the Yazidi minority has described in horrific detail her life as an Islamic State sex slave. Abused on a daily basis after being captured by Islamic State fighters, she has begged her captors to end her ordeal by killing her. ... continue reading


All Middle East News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Corinthians 12:31--13:13
31 Set your mind on the higher gifts. And now I am ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:2-3, 4-5, 12, 22
2 Give thanks to Yahweh on the lyre, play for him on ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 7:31-35
31 'What comparison, then, can I find for the people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 17th, 2014 Image

St. Robert Bellarmine
September 17: Born at Montepulciano, Italy, October 4, 1542, St. Robert ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter