The murder of four Christians across Iraq in just two days is raising concern among churches there that a religious cleansing is returning.
According to International Christian Concern, the Christians were attacked and killed in Baghdad and Kirkuk.
“Though the perpetrators of the murders are not yet indicated, Islamic fundamentalists, criminal gangs and other armed groups have been behind attacks agaist Christians in Iraq in the past,” said the organization, which works with members of the persecuted church around the globe.
The report said Sabah Aziz Suliman was killed in Kirkuk on Wednesday. Then, yesterday, Nimrud Khuder Moshi, Glawiz Nissan and Hanaa Issaq were attacked in killed in Dora, a historically Christian neighborhood in Baghdad.
“The killing of four innocent people within the last two days has put a renewed fear in our hearts,” said Julian Taimoorazy, president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, in an interview with ICC.
“What is important,” he continued, “is to keep these continuous atrocities in the media and on the policy makers’ radars. What we need is a more safe and secure Iraq for all of Iraqis, especially for the Christians who have faced ethno-religious cleansing.”
Archbishop Louis Sako told the organization that 750 Christians have been murdered in the past five years, and tens of thousands have fled because of the threat of danger.
ICC estimates that half of about 1.2 million Iraqi Christians have abandoned their homes in recent years, many of them fleeing to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
WND reported earlier when the violence that was prevalent across Iraq following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s empire subsided and officials were urging Christian refugees to return to the country.
There now are fears some of that unchecked violence, especially attacks targeting Christians because of their faith, is returning.
Jonathan Racho, the regional manager for ICC in Africa and the Middle East, said, “The suffering of Iraqi Christians has been beyond description and is not yet over. More than ever, the Iraqi Christians need our prayer and support. The latest martyrdom of our brothers should serve to awaken churches in the Western countries to come to the aid of their Iraqi brothers and sisters. We call upon Iraqi officials and the allied forces in Iraq to avert further attacks against Iraqi Christians. It is simply unacceptable to watch the extinction of the Christian community from Iraq.”
According to WND sources in the Middle East, who asked that their names be withheld, Suliman, 60, was killed in his home at sunrise Wednesday. The three others, Moshi, 64; Nissan, 61; and Issaq, 58, were killed at sunrise the next day.
“We are very concerned at this dramatic rise in violence immediately following the recent elections,” William Warda, chief of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organizations, said in the report.
“This will greatly affect those displaced outside the countries we are counting on to return and cause many more to leave the country, just when things were calming,” he said.
Warda noted the new national constitution in Iraq cites Islam as the official religion of the state, a sure weapon against Christians.
“Most people outside Iraq are not aware of the simple fact that it is against the law, and the punishment can be death for the most basic human freedom – the freedom to change one’s religion,” he said.
WND previously reported that Christians, the first people of Iraq, have faced persecution, threats, assassination and mass extermination in recent years.
But the Iraqi government did create a reason to celebrate Christmas last year when it sponsored a Baghdad city-center party featuring a huge poster of Jesus suspended by a balloon and an artist creating oil paintings representing Jesus.
According to a report from CNN, the agency’s correspondent was told by Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf, “All Iraqis are Christian today!”
Ken Joseph Jr. of the Assyrian Christians told WND walking through the streets of Washington, D.C., provides a visitor with no link between the decorations and festivities of the holiday time and the birth of Jesus.
Yet in Baghdad, “the government sponsored a special Christmas celebration for the Christians. The main focus was the huge picture of Jesus,” he said.
To this day, many Assyrian Christians still speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. They are also the people of ancient Nineveh, the city visited by the biblical prophet Jonah that lies today near the modern city of Mosul, Iraq.