4-5-2009: Aramean blood continues to flow in Iraq…
2-9-2008: Again two Arameans killed in Iraq
Killing of Priest Yusuf Adel Abudi
Killing of Mgr. Faraj Raho
Killing of Priest Ragied Aziz Gannie
Killing of Isoh Majeed Hadaya
Killing of Priest Paulus Iskandar
12-10-2006: Aramean priest Iskandar beheaded in Mosul (Iraq)
Aramean people: Aramean people (not to be confused with ‘Armenians’) speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Abraham, Moses and Jesus. They are the indigenous people of what was called in ancient times Aram- Nahrin, in our days it is called ‘Mesopotamia’.
Some Arameans today identify themselves with “Assyrians”, because of the spiritual colonial hate generating activities of the Western missionaries and diplomats in the Middle-East in 16th and 19th centuries. Other Arameans became known as “Chaldeans”. However all of them are Arameans.In Turkey, the Arameans are called: Süryani. In Arabic they are called Al- Suryan.
An Aramean spiritual leader makes a dramatic appeal: Leave Iraq
Again, the Aramean Christians of Baghdad attacked
Bishop Touma Davud of the Syrian orthodox Church in United Kingdom (London)
The situation of the Arameans of Mesopotamia in Iraq is deteriorating so much that the Aramean bishop Touma Davud from United Kingdom on 7th of November 2010 summarized the situation in a dramatic way, saying, “I would like our people to flee from Iraq, because there is no protecting, no supporting, the people being killed, why we are living in our country and we be killed? We would like to leave”
The dramatic appeal of bishop Davud comes after the attack by terrorists on the Aramean Catholic church in Baghdad on 31st of October 2010 where 52 Aramean men, women and children were killed; among them the two Aramean priests of the church.
Unfortunately, such appeals only will play into hands of the terrorists. It gives a wrong signal which they may interpret as a reward for killing and terrorist attacks. In Iraq, not only Arameans are suffering, but other communities also suffer from attacks and bloodbaths. However, their leaders do not advice the people to leave Iraq.
Appeals like this, will also discourage people and plunge them into apathy! The task of spiritual leaders as bishop Davud is to encourage and hearten the nation to stay in Iraq in order to continue with the shinning of the Christian torch of love and brotherhood in these dark times in a country where the evil powers of intolerance and fanaticism seem to reign supreme.
What is now happening in Iraq is something which for hundreds of years is taking place in Egypt. The Coptic people of Egypt are being killed, harassed, persecuted, discriminated against and terrorist by abominable forces of abyss whose dictionary lacks words like peace and brotherhood. Yet none of the Coptic leaders ever advised their people to leave the country, no matter the extent of killings and bloodbaths. On the contrary, the suffering of Christians is being explained by the Coptic spiritual leaders as “the cross of Christ” which every Christian has to accept and to bear.
The motto of the charismatic Patriarch Snouda is therefore: “God is present”. With that he underscores that you as a Christian, completely have to rely on and trust in the Lord God, no matter how severe the conditions might be, because “God sees everything”, including raping, killings, burning of the churches and unbearable discrimination and suffering in Egypt. The result of this mentality is that God indeed is performing miracles in Egypt.
We regularly hear that some of the most bloodthirsty Islamic spiritual leaders- if possible they would exterminate Christianity- being visited by Christ Jesus and convert to Christianity.
To our view, bishop Touma Davud should follow the example of the Coptic spiritual leaders and encourage the people to stay in Iraq and act as spiritual salt in this difficult times. He should follow the example of Patriarch Ignatios Nurono (the first patriarch after St. Peter) who in all humbleness accepted his fate and was brought to Rome to be thrown for lions for the cause of Christ. It is for a good reason that the Bible says:
Bishop Touma Davud should emphasis more on the “suffering” as part of the life of every Christian. And that is why the Aramean Christians should not surrender to the evil powers whose goals is to clean Iraq of its original inhabitants. On the contrary, bishop Davud should appeal to the people in Diaspora as well as in Iraq to start a period of fasting in order to withstand the powers of the Satan as we read in the Bible, ““Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders [And] all the inhabitants of the land [Into] the house of the LORD your God, And cry out to the LORD” (Joesl 1:14)….. “Blow the trumpet....., Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; 16 Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room” (Joel 2:15-16)
The more suffering, the more fasting and more humbleness before the Lord God, that should be the message of bishop Touma Davud following example of Coptic leaders in Egypt.
By making appeal to leave Iraq, the people get demoralized and Satan gets his way. That is wrong way. What will people gain to come to the “luxury” (and decadent) West? Nothing! Except to lose their children!
The Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Nouri Al- Maliki, on Tuesday 9th of November made a appeal not to encourage the Christians to leave Iraq. He said this, because of granting asylum by France and some other countries.
New attack: 5 dead and 20 wounded
The tears of the brutal attack of 31st of October 2010 were not dried yet, the terrorists again hit the Arameans Christians of Baghdad on Wednesday 10th of November 2010. They attacked the Aramean homes in Baghdad by bombs and mortars. At least four Arameans were killed and 20 people wounded. The terrorists seem to fulfill their threats they few days ago made, ““All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the mujahideen [holy warriors]”
According to a Aramean spiritual leader in Baghdad, chaos is prevalent because of inadequately functioning police and security apparatus. Bloodbaths and killing occur on daily base. It is not known how many people exactly get killed every day.
The inability of police and security apparatus was also questioned by a Shiite shop owner in the vicinity of the Aramean Catholic Church in the Karrada district which was attacked on 31st of October 2010. He says, "We know there is a checkpoint or a police car in front of every church," "Now, how did the gunmen enter the church? Were there clashes before? We did not hear about clashes, which means [the gunmen] entered very easily. Again, how did this happen, especially in Karrada, which is almost like a military camp now?"
************Arameans of Iraq***************
Because of their fragile position combined with lack of adequately functioning security apparatus, the Arameans are an easy target for powers who intend to cleanse Iraq of its original inhabitants who have been present in this part of the world since thousands of years.
Before the war of 2003, there were around 800.000 Arameans in Iraq. Probably more than half of them have left the country. The attacks on their churches and leaders chased the Arameans out of Iraq. We mention few examples:
There are in Iraq following Aramean denominations :
The terms “East- “ and “West- Arameans” go back to the time of early Christianity where the Aramean indigenous nation was geographically termed as such. Roughly speaking the Euphrates River was the border. Those Arameans living Eastern of Euphrates, thus living in Persia, were termed “East- Arameans” and those living Western of Euphrates, thus in Roman Empire, were called “Western- Arameans”.
The designations “Chaldeans” and “Assyrians” for the eastern Arameans go back to the Western colonial activities of the 16th (France + Catholic missionaries) and 19th (Great Britain + Anglican missionaries) centuries. The ecclesiastical and political Western powers closely worked together and setup camps in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran where the Aramean children were “educated” through which they were completely uprooted from their Aramean origin. They thereby planted a horrible form of fanaticism in their hearts which caused them to display an immense aversion to their Aramean origin.
In the year 1553 the Western Catholic missionaries together with France brainwashed a part of the East- Aramean clergy by means of bribery to call themselves “Chaldeans” with the result that the Aramaic language became known as “Chaldean” language and a part of the Aramean nation became known as “Chaldean” nation in some parts of the Western literature, the first attack on the Aramean heritage.
As a result of mutual hatred and competition between the Western Catholics and Protestants, in the late 19th century the same process was repeated, this time by the Anglican missionaries and Great Britain, and the other part of the East- Aramean “Nestorian” tribes of Hakkari (bordering Turkey and Iraq) and Urmia (Iran) to call themselves "Assyrians"- a term which was used purely geographically and only applied to the "Nestorians". The result was that Aramaic became known as “Assyrian” language and the Aramean nation as the “Assyrian” nation- this was the second and more severe attack on the Aramean heritage- a kind of spiritual genocide.
****************Articles in the media**************
Iraq's Christians terrorized by wave of bombings
Nov 10, 3:52 PM (ET)
By BARBARA SURK and HAMID AHMED
BAGHDAD (AP) - Suspected Sunni militants took aim again at Baghdad's dwindling Christian community,setting off a dozen roadside bombs Wednesday and sending terrified families into hiding behind a church where walls are still stained from blood from an attack nearly two weeks ago.
Five people were killed and 20 were wounded in the bombings and mortar attacks that targeted Christians across the city, police and hospital officials said. Iraqi Christians are already reeling after the earlier attack on a Sunday Mass service left 68 people dead, and many are now wondering whether it's time to leave their homeland.
At a house on the grounds of Our Lady of Salvation Church, Karim Patros Thomas was under no illusion that the community is under siege.
On Oct. 31, Thomas' brother-in-law bled to death on the church floor after militants stormed the building, shot congregants in the first row, held others hostage and then set off bombs when Iraqi forces came to the rescue.Then Wednesday morning, two bombs went off in quick succession outside his home.
"We are terrified," Thomas said, who sought refuge with his family Wednesday at the church. "I cannot go back to my house. They will attack again. They want to kill us."
A priest at the church, Moukhlis Shash, said four families arrived Wednesday, and he expects more in the coming days. He said some of the families found on their doorsteps a bullet wrapped in paper that read:"Your blood is legitimate for us."
Security was beefed up around churches in Baghdad after the church massacre, possibly pushing the militants to target the homes as easier targets.
Several police vehicles, equipped with machine guns, surrounded the church Wednesday. The building's outside walls were still riddled with bullets. Pictures of two priests, killed in the siege, hung above the main entrance. Pieces of black cloth, each adored with a white crucifix, were tied to the metal fence surrounding the church.
Police said at least 11 roadside bombs went off within an hour Wednesday in three predominantly Christian areas of central Baghdad. Two mortar rounds also struck Christian enclaves of the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora in south Baghdad. Two bombs planted in deserted Christian homes in western Baghdad destroyed two houses.
The night before, a series of bombs hit three empty houses belonging to Christians but no one was hurt.
"It's not worth staying in a country where the government is not able to protect you even when you are sitting in your house," said Juliet Hana, a 33-year-old Christian who lives in one of the neighborhoods targeted Wednesday. She was having breakfast with her daughter when she heard the bombs go off, and said she plans to leave soon for either Syria or Jordan.
Catholic officials estimate that more than 1 million Christians have fled Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Many went to Syria, which in recent days has seen a greater number of arriving Iraqis than usual.
Sargon Dawod, director of the Assyrian General Conference in Damascus said eight families - 30 people - have immigrated to Syria over the past 10 days. He expects that number to increase.
Fadel Mikha Sam'an, 66, said he went to Syria four days ago after losing three relatives in the church attack.
"The terrorists are killing Christians. They want to empty Iraq of Christians," he said.
Sunni militants such as al-Qaida justify their attacks by questioning whether the Christians are loyal to countries in the West rather than to Iraq. A group linked to al-Qaida in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack on the church.
Iraq's top Catholic prelate, Chaldean Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, has encouraged the remaining 1.5 million Christians to stay in the country and asked authorities for more protection.
At the Baghdad church, Thomas said the Christians have no tribal leaders or militias to protect them. He is begging his wife to leave the country with their children.
His wife, Selma Edward Eskander, said she considers Iraq's Muslims her family too.
"I don't want to leave. I just want to be somewhere where my children are safe," she said, still dressed in black to mourn her older brother. "I wonder what has happened to Iraq. We Christians and Muslims used to live together."
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Amman, Jordan, and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria contributed to this report.
3 killed, 26 hurt as Iraqi Christians attacked
November 10, 2010 -
A spate of early morning bomb and mortar attacks on homes of Christians in Baghdad Wednesday left at least three people dead and 26 wounded, an interior ministry official said.
"Two mortar shells and 10 homemade bombs targeted the homes of Christians in different neighbourhoods of Baghdad between 6:00 am and 8:00 am (0300 and 0500 GMT)," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The toll is three dead and 26 wounded."
The attacks come 10 days after 44 Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security forces personnel died during the seizure of a Baghdad cathedral by Islamist militants and the ensuing shootout when it was stormed by troops.
On Tuesday, three homes in the Mansur district of western Baghdad belonging to Christians were firebombed without causing any casualties, an interior ministry source said.
On November 3, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the Baghdad cathedral bloodbath and warned it would further step up attacks on Christians.
The extremists said they had carried out the church attack to force the release of converts to Islam allegedly being detained by the Coptic Church in Egypt. Days afterwards it declared Christians everywhere "legitimate targets."
A senior Iraqi clergyman said at the weekend Iraq's Christians should leave the country or face being killed at the hands of Al-Qaeda. "If they stay they will be finished, one by one," Archbishop Athanasios Dawood told the BBC.
Iraq's premier however on Tuesday cautioned other countries not to encourage Christians to abandon their homeland, after France took in dozens of people wounded in the October 31 cathedral attack.
On his first visit to the church targeted on October 31, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that at a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 he had asked the pontiff "not to let the east be emptied of Christians, nor the West of Muslims."
"The countries that have welcomed the victims ... of this attack (on the church) have done a noble thing, but that should not encourage emigration," he said on a visit to the Syriac Catholic cathedral where the massacre occurred.
Thirty-four Iraqi Christians and a Muslim guard wounded in the incident flew in to France on Monday for admission to hospitals for treatment.
French Immigration Minister Eric Besson has said this fitted France's "tradition of asylum" to take them in, and that asylum would be "handed out generously" to those who seek it.
France plans a second evacuation flight in the coming weeks to bring out a further 93 Christians.
Besson said that 1,300 Iraqi Christians had been granted asylum in France since autumn 2007, an acceptance rate of 85 percent for asylum-seekers from among the community.
An estimated 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003 but that number has since shrunk to around 500,000 in the face of repeated attacks against their community and churches.
Christians in Baghdad have now dwindled to around 150,000, a third of their former population in the capital.
Blasts target Iraq Christians; 3 dead, dozens hurt
By Aseel Kami and Ahmed Rasheed Aseel Kami And Ahmed Rasheed – 1 hr 42 mins ago; 10-10-2010
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Bombings and mortar attacks targeting Christians killed at least three people and wounded dozens in Baghdad, Iraqi security sources said on Wednesday, 10 days after a bloody siege at a Catholic church that killed 52.
The attacks renewed fears among minority Christians that Sunni Islamist insurgents were trying to drive them out of their homeland and reignite sectarian warfare, while Iraq's political leaders squabble over the formation of a new government.
Attackers detonated bombs or fired mortar rounds in more than a dozen attacks on Christian targets in the Iraqi capital late on Tuesday and early Wednesday, the security sources said.
An Iraqi police source put the toll at three dead and 37 wounded, while an Interior Ministry source said four people were killed and 33 wounded. Both sources asked not to be named.
"What can we do? They are chasing Christians in every neighborhood in Baghdad," Emmanuel III Delly, the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad, told Reuters in a telephone interview, his voice shaking. "We can't do anything to stop them, but to pray to God they stop these crimes."
Tensions have been running high in predominantly Muslim Iraq since a March election that produced no clear winner, leaving Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions jockeying for position in a new government and raising fears of renewed violence.
Insurgents linked to al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for a string of recent attacks that appeared aimed at reigniting the sectarian bloodshed that ravaged Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and which began to abate three years ago.
Fifty-two hostages and police were killed on October 31 in a raid on the Our Lady of Salvation cathedral in central Baghdad, prompting vows from the Iraqi government to step up security for Christians.
That attack was followed two days later by a series of explosions across mainly Shi'ite areas in the city in which at least 63 people died.
The latest spree of bombs and mortars spanned the capital. Mortars landed in the southern Doura district while bombs were planted near Christian homes in Doura, Camp Sara in the east, Adhamiya in the north, Mansour in the west, Karrada in the center and other areas.
"These operations, which targeted Christians, came as a continuation of the attack that targeted the Salvation church," the interior ministry source said.
Um Noora, 46, a government employee and a Christian who lives in Camp Sara, said she was terrified and did not know whether to leave Iraq or stay.
"My whole body is shaking. I did not go to work today. I did not let my daughter go to her university," the mother of three said.
"We do not know what is our destiny. They might attack us at any moment, God only knows. It is the government's responsibility to protect us. We are in a trap -- the sea is in front of us and the enemy behind us. We do not know what to do."
Patriarch Delly said it was obvious insurgents were trying to drive Christians out of Iraq.
"Iraq is our beloved country and Muslims are our brothers, so why they are doing this? Why they are targeting us?"
(Additional reporting by Reuters Television; writing by Jim Loney; Editing by Michael Christie and Mark Trevelyan)
Bombings target Christian neighbourhoods in Baghdad
Co-ordinated attacks on churches and homes, including that of a family caught in cathedral assault, leave at least four dead
At least four people have been killed and dozens injured in a co-ordinated series of attacks on Christian neighbourhoods in Baghdad.
More than 14 bombs and mortar shells were detonated, targeting homes and a church across the Iraqi capital.
At least one of today's attacks targeted the family of a victim of an assault last week on one of Baghdad's main cathedrals, which left 53 worshippers dead.
The terrorists identified the family by funeral signs still hanging outside the home.
Three Christian homes in the western Baghdad suburb of Mansour were bombed last night with improvised explosives. Early this morning, two homes were hit by mortar fire in Dora, a Christian neighbourhood in the south. A bomb also exploded near a church in Kampsara and a house in nearby Baladiyat.
The scale of attacks against Christian targets is unprecedented and is likely to give fresh impetus to calls from some Christian leaders for their community to leave Iraq.
The campaign of violence against Christians has shocked a country that endured three years of savage sectarian violence between 2005-2008.
"These operations, which targeted Christians, came as a continuation of the attack that targeted the Salvation church," an interior ministry source told Reuters.
The Islamic State of Iraq – an al-Qaida front group – claimed responsibility for that attack and vowed to launch further attacks against Christians to avenge the imprisonment of two Muslim women it claims are being held by Coptic priests in Egypt.
Ever since the cathedral killings, Iraq's 500,000 Christians have lived in fear of an escalation in violence. So too had Iraq's feuding politicians, who face increasing doubts about their ability to protect the country's citizens.
France has offered to treat survivors of the massacre and has evacuated 40 wounded Iraqis, including a Muslim guard who was injured in the attack. The French government has also pledged to offer asylum to 1,000 Iraqi Christians.
Several Christian leaders last week called for Iraq's remaining Christians to flee the country.
Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, the head of the Iraq Orthodox church in London, warned of a looming "genocide".
"Before they killed one, one, one but now, tens, tens. If they do that, they will finish us if we stay in Iraq," he said.
Priests and bishops in Lebanon and Egypt, which maintain strong Christian minorities, have also expressed fear for the future of Iraq's largest minority group.
Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, yesterday visited the scene of last week's attack at the Our Lady of Salvation cathedral, where he urged Christian worshippers to remain in Iraq. He praised France for "showing compassion" to survivors, but said other countries should not encourage emigration.
Attacks against Christian targets became commonplace in the northern city of Mosul from 2005-2009. A wave of violence in late 2008 forced hundreds of families to flee the city for Baghdad.
But Baghdad's Christian communities have not been targeted until now. Even during the sectarian violence of 2006-2007, Christians experienced nothing like the carnage between Shia and Sunni communities that ravaged the city.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 03:02
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s prime minister yesterday cautioned other countries not to encourage Christians to abandon their homeland, after France took in dozens of people wounded in a bloodbath at a Baghdad church.
In the latest attacks on the minority community, meanwhile, three homes in the Mansur district of western Baghdad belonging to Christians were firebombed without causing any casualties, an interior ministry source said.
The attacks came after a November 3 warning from Al Qaeda that it would step up attacks on Christians.
On his first visit to the church targeted on October 31, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki said that at a meeting with Benedict XVI in 2008 he had asked the pope “not to let the east be emptied of Christians, nor the West of Muslims.”
“The countries that have welcomed the victims ... of this attack (on the church) have done a noble thing, but that should not encourage emigration,” he said on a visit to the Syriac Catholic cathedral where the massacre occurred.
In all, 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces personnel died during the seizure of the cathedral by Islamist militants and the ensuing shootout when it was stormed by troops.
Around 60 people were wounded in the bloodbath and France swiftly offered to provide specialist treatment for those with the most serious injuries.
France is the only country to have offered to take in victims of the attack. Thirty-four Iraqi Christians and a Muslim guard wounded in the incident flew in to France overnight on Monday for admission to hospitals for treatment.
French Immigration Minister Eric Besson has said this fitted France’s “tradition of asylum” to take them in, and that asylum would be “handed out generously” to those who seek it.
An estimated 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003 but that number has since shrunk to around 500,000 in the face of repeated attacks against their community and churches.
Christian district blasts kill 4
Nov 10, 2010
BAGHDAD - IRAQI officials say bombings have targeted Baghdad's Christian neighbourhoods, killing at least four people.
The attacks underscore the threat to Iraq's minority Christian community following the church massacre last week that left 58 people dead. Al-Qaeda militants have claimed responsibility for that attack.
They also threatened more violence against Iraq's Christians.
Police say predominantly Christian areas of Camp Sara, Sinaa Street and al-Ghadeer in central Baghdad were among the districts hit by bombings early Wednesday.
Police officials said four people were killed and 11 wounded. Hospital officials confirmed the death toll.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media. -- AP
Monday, November 8, 2010
Life in Iraq isn't easy (and hasn't been for a while), but it's still rare to find community leaders imploring Iraqis to leave their home country. But that's exactly what Archbishop Athanasios Dawood of the Syriac Orthodox Church is doing.
"I say clearly and now -- the Christian people should leave their beloved land of our ancestors and escape the premeditated ethnic cleansing," Dawood said in a prepared statement to CNN. "This is better than having them killed one by one." In other interviews, Dawood, who lives in London, evoked the word "genocide" to describe the treatment of Iraqi Christians.
Fifty-eight people were killed in an attack on an Iraqi church last Sunday.
With the exception of the massive exodus of Iraq's large Jewish minority after the creation of Israel in 1948, there was little sectarian violence in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003.
"You know, everybody hates the Christian. Yes, during Saddam Hussein, we were living in peace -- nobody attacked us. We had human rights, we had protection from the government but now nobody protects us," the archbishop told the BBC. "Since 2003, there has been no protection for Christians. We've lost many people and they've bombed our homes, our churches, monasteries."
Eden Naby and Jamsheed K. Chosky wrote in Foreign Policy last week that there may not be a Christian population left in Iraq by the end of the century. Iran, which also has a (shrinking) Christian minority, is suffering the same fate.
But it isn't only from those countries that Middle Eastern Christians are leaving. Long-time Middle East journalist Robert Fisk pointed out last month (before the massacre in Baghdad) that Christian populations are shrinking across the region, from Palestine to Lebanon to Egypt. "This is, however, not so much a flight of fear, more a chronicle of a death foretold," Fisk writes. "Christians are being outbred by the majority Muslim populations in their countries and they are almost hopelessly divided."
In Michigan, Iraqi Christians rallied today, calling on the United States to put a stop to violence against their coreligionists.
The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has affected every aspect of society in that country. As many people have written, the U.S. government seems to have been wholly unprepared for what lay ahead in Iraq. It's hard to imagine that George W. Bush, with his own deep Christian faith, expected the catastrophe in store for Iraqi Christians.
Church leader urges Iraqi Christians to quit country
7 November 2010 Last updated at 16:01 GMT
A senior Iraqi Christian has called on believers to quit the country, after gunmen targeted a church in Baghdad
Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, who is based in the UK, made his appeal during a service at the Syrian Orthodox Church in London.
The archbishop said Christians had been without protection since the US-led invasion in 2003.
At least 52 people died as security forces stormed a Catholic church in Baghdad to free dozens of hostages.
A number of gunmen entered Our Lady of Salvation in the city's Karrada district during Mass on Sunday 31 October, sparking an hours-long stand-off.
The militants made contact with the authorities by mobile phone, demanding the release of al-Qaeda prisoners and also of a number of Muslim women they insisted were being held prisoner by the Coptic Church in Egypt.
After negotiations failed, Iraqi security forces stormed the building, before the gunmen reportedly threw grenades and detonated their suicide vests.
On Sunday, Archbishop Dawood advised all Christians to leave Iraq now al-Qaeda had warned of more attacks there.
He told the BBC the attack on the church amounted to "genocide" and there was now no place for Christians in Iraq.
"The Christians are weak - they don't have militia, they don't have a (political) party," he said.
"You know, everybody hates the Christian. Yes, during Saddam Hussein, we were living in peace - nobody attacked us. We had human rights, we had protection from the government but now nobody protects us."
He accused the US of not delivering on its promises of democracy and human rights.
"Since 2003, there has been no protection for Christians. We've lost many people and they've bombed our homes, our churches, monasteries," he said.
"Why are we living now in this country, after we had a promise from America to bring us freedom, democracy?"
The archbishop called on the UK government to grant Christian Iraqis asylum, and called on the Iraqi government to protect Christians from militant attacks.
"Before they killed one, one, one but now, tens, tens. If they do that, they will finish us if we stay in Iraq," he added.
Christians - as ethnic Assyrians (Aramean) - have lived in Iraq since the 1st Century, but following the fall of Saddam Hussein, they have become isolated and the Baghdad government has proved unwilling or unable to protect them.
There has been a string of bomb attacks on churches leading many to flee to neighbouring countries.
Church leaders have in the past advised the faithful to stay in Iraq and strengthen their communities, but such is the insecurity, there are signs this policy may be about to change.
Before the US-led invasion of Iraq, there were nearly one million Christians there enjoying some protection from Saddam Hussein.
Since 2003, that number has dropped to about 400,000. Most of those that fled are now living in neighbouring countries.
About 10,000 Iraqi Christians now live in the UK. Their leader is Archbishop Athanasios Dawood and he presides over the Syrian Orthodox Church in west London.
Archbishop Dawood is one of many in his congregation who have lost several members of their family back in Iraq as al-Qaeda and other insurgents target Christians.
The archbishop now says it is no longer safe for Christians to stay in Iraq because they are easy targets.
Unlike other groups, they have no militias of their own.
More Iraqi Christians Consider Leaving Iraq After Attack on Baghdad Cathedral
November 04, 2010
By Maysoon Abo al-Hab, Ron Synovitz
BAGHDAD -- Vian Jabburi, a 22-year-old Roman Catholic, was celebrating Mass in Baghdad with her father on October 31 when Al-Qaeda militants stormed the church.
Shot through her shoulder during the ensuing siege, Jabburi survived. Her father was also shot and slowly bled to death, while she lay helpless at his side in a pool of her own blood.
"Nothing resembles this experience. Nothing," Jabburi tells RFE/RL as she breaks down in tears at her father's funeral. "The situation was very, very difficult. I still don't know whether it was reality or just a nightmare. I do not know. I really don't know.
"We were bleeding for four or five hours without receiving any help," she adds. "I will leave it to God. He is the only one who can take our revenge."
Jabburi is among thousands of Iraqi Christians who suffered through years of sectarian violence in Iraq but is now considering whether to stay any longer.
Raad Ammanuel, head of the Office of Christian Endowment in Baghdad, says the attack has caused many Iraqi Christians to rethink whether they have a long-term future in Iraq.
"Those who have an injured member of their family or lost a loved one, they are talking about leaving the country," Ammanuel says. "We do not want this to happen and we do not encourage it. But still, we can not stop people from thinking this way. I have been discussing this with them. But what can I say and how can I reply when they ask me if I am going to bring back the ones they have lost?"
'This Is Our Country'
But other Iraqi Christians are adamant in their determination to stay. Among them is the family of Hanan Fadhil, a math teacher in the Karrada district whose cousin was killed in the October 31 assault.
"They want to destroy the country and create divisions and conflicts," Fadhil says. "We've been living here all our lives and we are not going to leave Iraq. We will stay. This is our country. I was born in 1956 and I'm now 54 years old. I've been here since then. How can I leave this country?"
Baghdad's heavily fortified Karrada district has been an island of tolerance in Baghdad, where Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims have continued to live alongside Christians in relative harmony.
Luis al-Shabi, a Chaldean priest at the Mars Polis Church there, says most residents blame criminals and extremist fanatics for violence that has targeted Iraqis of all faiths.
"When a country is not stable, such things can happen. It happened many times in mosques and it happened also in [Christian] churches many times," Shabi says. "One of them is this recent disaster.
"But I have to say that Muslims do not do such things," he continues. "Those who commit such acts are not believers of Islam nor Christianity and not even in God. When they have the chance, they come to kill and to massacre people regardless of whether the victims are Muslims or Christians."
Targets Of Al-Qaeda
Indeed, Iraqi Christians have faced the same pattern of beheadings, kidnappings, rapes, and extortion that plagued Iraq's Shi'ite and Sunni communities during the years of chaos after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and before the surge operations of 2007 brought relative stability.
That violence caused many Muslims to leave their homes, along with the hundreds of thousands from Iraq's Christian minority who have fled the country.
During the rule of Saddam Hussein, there were an
estimated 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq -- many of them
Exact figures are impossible to confirm, but some estimates say two-thirds of Iraq's Christians have left the country since 2003 -- leaving fewer than 450,000 Iraqi Christians there today.
Al-Qaeda militants want the exodus to continue. On November 3 they threatened to carry out more attacks against Iraqi Christians.
The Islamic State of Iraq, which claimed responsibility for the Baghdad cathedral assault, linked its warning to allegations that Egypt's Coptic Church is holding women captive if they convert to Islam.
The group -- an umbrella organization that includes Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other allied Sunni insurgent factions -- is also demanding the release of Al-Qaeda prisoners held in Iraq.
Inflaming Sectarian Strife
Abu Gaith, a 28-year-old Sunni Muslim from the Karrada neighborhood, thinks Al-Qaeda has a deeper motive for targeting Christian churches.
"Everything is clear. The goal is to create problems and aggravate the already tense situation," he says. "The attackers are trying to create new opportunities and light a fire near a barrel of oil. They want the situation to go back to how it was two or three years ago, when there were sectarian conflicts between Sunnis, Shi'a or battles between Muslims and Christians".
Western security analysts have come to the same conclusion, saying a weakened Al-Qaeda in Iraq is now trying to rebuild its reputation through high-profile terrorist attacks.
Jane's Security and Military Intelligence Consulting -- part of the British-based Jane's Information Group -- says Al-Qaeda in Iraq is trying to reignite large-scale and prolonged sectarian violence through focused attacks, particularly in Baghdad. It also warns that a wave of attacks across the country in late August suggests the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities has given the terrorist organization the space it needs to rebuild.
The analysis from Jane's concludes that the inability of Iraqi politicians to agree upon a new governing coalition has been detrimental to the abilities of Iraqi forces to maintain security.
Residents of the Karrada district agree. "The only reason for what happened, not only [at the cathedral] but for what is happening every day, is the incompetence of [Iraqi] security forces, especially those deployed in the Karrada district," says Ahmad Jassim, a 40-year-old Shi'ite Muslim who owns a minimarket close to the cathedral in Karrada.
"We know there is a checkpoint or a police car in front of every church," he continues. "Now, how did the gunmen enter the church? Were there clashes before? We did not hear about clashes, which means [the gunmen] entered very easily. Again, how did this happen, especially in Karrada, which is almost like a military camp now?"
That sentiment reflects the concerns of many Baghdad residents -- whether Shi'ite, Sunni, or Christian -- who say they have little confidence in the protection provided by Iraqi security forces as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq continues.
RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq correspondents contributed to this report from Baghdad
Al Qaeda ally in Iraq says all Christians 'legitimate targets'
The Islamic State of Iraq, the umbrella group for Al Qaeda in the country, claims Muslim women are being held against their will in Coptic churches in Egypt
By Taylor Barnes, Correspondent / November 3, 2010
The Islamic State of Iraq, an insurgent group and Al Qaeda ally, on Tuesday declared all the country's Christians "legitimate targets."
The group says it believes that Muslim women are being held against their will in Coptic churches in Egypt. The Egyptian state; the Coptic church; and Egypt's leading Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, have all condemned the threats of violence against Christians.
The threat came while Iraq was still reeling from a series of car bombs across the capital Tuesday that killed at least 113 people in Shiite neighborhoods. The attacks bore the hallmarks of Sunni Arab militants like the Islamic State of Iraq. Tuesday's massacre appeared designed to fuel sectarian violence against Shiites.
That followed Sunday's targeting of Christians, when the Islamic State of Iraq seized a Catholic church in Baghdad and killed 58 people during a standoff with police. It was said to be the deadliest attack against Christians ever recorded in Iraq.
“All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the mujahideen [holy warriors]," the Islamic State of Iraq said in a statement posted online late Tuesday.
Sunni militant chatrooms have been inflamed in recent weeks with claims that the Egyptian Coptic church is forcibly holding two women, wives of Coptic priests, who converted to Islam. “Let these idolaters, and at their forefront, the hallucinating tyrant of the Vatican, know that the killing sword will not be lifted from the necks of their followers until they declare their innocence from what the dog of the Egyptian Church is doing," the message continued.
The Coptic church is the Egyptian branch of the Eastern Orthodox right and as many as 10 percent of Egyptians claim the faith.
One of the women, Camilia Shehata, went missing for a few days in July. After police escorted her home, Islamist protesters said she was being forcibly detained after converting to Islam. The other woman, Wafa Constantine, was held at a convent after her husband refused to grant her a divorce and rumors that she had converted circulated, reported Agence France-Presse.
After Sunday, Iraqi church leaders blamed the Iraqi government for failing to prevent the deadliest attack since before Iraq’s March election, reported The Christian Science Monitor. “If the sons of this country cannot live in peace, then the situation is clearly unacceptable. Had we been provided with adequate security, this would not have happened,” Syriac church official Monsignor Pius Kasha told the Monitor.
Tuesday's attacks in Shiite neighborhoods, however, were far deadlier, with at least 17 car bombs detonated mostly over a period of 90 minutes, reported The Los Angeles Times. The attacks bore the signature of Al Qaeda in Iraq and underscored the fragility of the country, reported the Times:
Christians were also targeted ahead of the March elections. The Monitor's Jane Arraf visited the city of Arbil in northern Iraq to speak with the family of Adnan Hannah al-Dahan, who was the first of at least eight Iraqi Christians killed in the weeks leading up to the vote.
In a recent background briefing, the Monitor found that the search for better opportunities abroad, a Christian's status as a target of Iraq's sectarian conflict, a low birth rate, and discrimination were all fueling the decline of Christians in the Middle East.
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Fake News on the Aramean nation:
29-12-2010: Arameans of Iraq: persecutions, massacres, plundering and ethnic cleansing. Who is reaping profit from this bloodshed? Who is responsible for this? The real murderers of the Arameans of Iraq.
19-4-2007: The three Archbishops of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch in Iraq, together with the Arameans of Aram-Naharaim Foundation and the Aramaic Democratic Organization (ArDO) in action for the Aramean people in Iraq
20-10-2005: Aram-Naharaim in action for the Arameans in Iraq
18-22 July 2005: Aram-Naharaim attends the 23rd session of the Working Group on the Indigenous Populations: A statement on “Spiritual Colonialism and the decline of the Indigenous Aramean people of Aram-Nahrin”
19-23 July 2004: Aram-Naharaim attends the 22nd session of the Working Group on the Indigenous Populations. Statement: The exclusion and discrimination of the Indigenous Aramean people of Mesopotamia (Aram-Naharaim)