Persecution: A Way of Life for Christians in Iraq

Post a Comment » Written on March 16th, 2006     
Filed under: News
MOSUL, IRAQ (March 16, 2006) – Once again, the bells of St. George’s are ringing at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon, calling nearly 1,000 people to worship in the small community of Bartellah, located in the desert about 45 minutes from Mosul. Armed guards with AK-47 assault weapons patrol outside the Assyrian Catholic Church’s building – as they do every day.

Christians in Iraq are facing severe persecution, says U.S. Army Chaplain Capt. John Grauer, whose work brings him in contact with two predominantly Christian communities outside of Mosul. (The accompanying photo shows a soldier at left patrolling outside the church.)

St. George Assyrian Catholic Church “The Assyrian Christians, who can trace their history back to the third century, are being threatened like never before,” says Grauer, who also serves as an Evangelical Covenant Church chaplain.

Grauer’s routinely visits with Christians in Bartellah and Qura Qosh. Grauer says he works with priests, such as Aimen Danna of St. George’s and Ammar Saddallah of St. Paul House. They seek to provide humanitarian assistance and support for projects, including finding employment for women so they can work in the villages rather than face possible persecution in other areas. To see additional images from the areas in which they work, please see Iraqi Images.

“Women are accosted in many parts of Iraq if they leave their home or leave their towns for not wearing the Muslim headscarf in public.”

“Christians are routinely assaulted, discriminated against and threatened, and in some cases even murdered,” Grauer says. “Many Christians speak of being kidnapped and forced to pay ransom money.”

One father who paid ransom for the return of his son lamented, “The authorities can do nothing,” Grauer says.

According to Associated Press accounts in February, the insurgency has funded itself in large part through nearly daily kidnappings for ransom – as many as 10 a day in Baghdad. Although news accounts have highlighted kidnappings of foreigners, most victims are Iraqis. Their families pay between $3,000 and $50,000 for the hostage’s release and almost never report the crimes to the police.

Christians often have been targeted because they are seen as collaborators with the West and have money, according to various reports. Grauer says extremists declare the Christians “are crusaders who need to be wiped out or driven out of the Muslim lands.”

In August 2004, bombs were set off simultaneously at six Christian churches in Iraq. No one knows how many Christians have fled the country since the war began, but many estimate the number in the tens of thousands.

Danna says the threat of bombings also is a daily reality. “You never know – someone could bring a vehicle or place explosives and blow up the church. It’s something we live with. We try to cope and we do the best we can, but I cannot worry about it,” Danna says. “I pray that it does not happen.”

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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