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

Islamic State beheads journalist James Foley (WARNING, GRAPHIC VIDEO)

Image of James Foley a moment before his gruesome beheading.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Islamic State has beheaded journalist James Foley. You may watch the video here, but be warned, it is graphic. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - American freelance journalist James Foley has been beheaded by the Islamic State. He was 40. Following a statement ... continue reading


WARNING TO WEST: Archeparch of Mosul says Western Christians will soon fall prey to persecution Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The exiled Chaldean Archeparch of Mosul, Amel Nona has some stern words of warning to those in the West, who think that the persecutions of Iraq "can't happen" where they are. "Our sufferings are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will ... continue reading


Wedding rings cut off fingers, bibles burned. Chaldean Catholics Remain Faithful

Image of Chaldean Catholics have lost everything, including their religious artifacts.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

If you have followed the horrifying stories of Christians in Iraq, you know that these peaceful people have been deprived of literally everything. They have not simply lost businesses, homes and cars, but also their money, their personal effects, literally everything ... continue reading


Taking the fight to the Islamic State! Following U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi and Kurdish fighters seize Mosul dam Watch

Image of Fighters from the Islamic State, which has recently suffered a severe setback due to a combined offensive between Iraqi, Kurdish and U.S. forces.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Following several days of U.S. airstrikes and battles with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the Islamic State has taken to the web to threaten the U.S. and any other potential threat. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The terrorist group posted a video on YouTube-which ... continue reading


Gaza cease-fire gains a 1 day extension as Israelis and Palestinians try to make a lasting peace Watch

Image of An Israeli missile explodes in Gaza. Israeli has regulated most of their action to destroying Hamas' arsenal of rockets and secret tunnels.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

After nearly a month of off and on violence, Israeli and Palestinian authorities have agreed to extend the current Gaza cease-fire by 24 hours, which will now end at 5 p.m. on August 19. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Israeli and Palestinian officials both ... continue reading


MUCH AT STAKE: Kurdish fighters battle Islamic State for control of strategic Mosul Dam Watch

Image of The U.S. military confirmed a mix of fighter jets and drones carried out nine airstrikes on Saturday near Mosul and the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Kurdish fighters, or Peshmerga are currently engaged in a strategic battle with Islamic state fighters over the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq. Peshmerga have fired mortars and explosives at extremist militants this past weekend as the battle to retake the ... continue reading


MASS EXECUTIONS: 3,000 women and girls kidnapped by Islamic State jihads over past two weeks Watch

Image of According to one eyewitness account, IS fighters surrounded a nearby Iraqi village of Kocho and demanded that its Yazidi residents convert to Islam or die.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A harrowing account of Yazidis being executed en masse by Islamic State rebels has reached the outside world. At least 80 men and boys were shot down where they stood in a village late last week. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to one eyewitness ... continue reading


The Islamic State starts its rampage across Syria Watch

Image of Fighters from the Islamic State, which have been rampaging across Iraq and Syria, executing thousands of non-Sunni Muslims, Christians, and religious minorities.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Since August began, gunmen from the Islamic State have executed 700 members of a Syrian tribe, the majority of which were civilians, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)-a human rights monitoring group-on August 16. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


300 Kurds kidnapped for rape: The Islamic state plans to breed out the blonde Iraqis Watch

Image of A child of the Yazidi minority group, noted for blonde hair, blue eyes and a fairer complexion.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are fears that the 300 Yazidi women who have been kidnapped by militants from the Islamic State last week will be used to bear children in order to break up the ancient community's bloodline. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Yazidi minority sect has ... continue reading


SEVERED HEADS paraded through villages by IS Watch

Image of Humanity and sanity has all but fled in parts of the Middle East .

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Humanity and sanity has all but fled in parts of the Middle East . One horrified mother has told reporters that Islamic State members have paraded through villages with the severed heads of their victims. Hungry dogs have taken to eaten the corpses of the ... 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, Ezekiel 28:1-10
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as ... Read More

Psalm, Deuteronomy 32:26-27, 27-28, 30, 35-36
26 I should crush them to dust, I said, I should wipe ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 19:23-30
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'In truth I tell ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 19th, 2014 Image

St. John Eudes
August 19: John Eudes was born at Ri, Normandy, France, on November 14, ... 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