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ICC Note: As we have reported for some time. The situation continues to deterioate for Middle Eastern Christians with Iraqi Christians suffering the worst. Warning: This article containst some very graphic details.
Church Calls for Action Over Massive Violence Directed At Iraqi Christians

Soaring violence against Christians in Iraq – including the alleged crucifixion of a teenage boy in Basra – has prompted the Catholic Church to call for a safe haven to protect minority groups as the country slides toward civil war.

For the full story, go to This Is London : The American Catholic bishops have also asked US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to grant asylum to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have fled their homes to escape persecution.

They told her that they were deeply alarmed by the “rapidly deteriorating situation of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq “.

The reports said a 14-year-old boy was crucified early last month in Basra . AIN also gave a graphic account of the execution of a priest, Father Paul Alexander which, it said, was in retaliation for Pope Benedict XVI recently quoting a 14th century Byzantine ruler who regarded Islam as ‘evil and inhuman’.

Father Alexander was snatched from Mosul ‘s Syriac Orthodox Catholic Church on October 9 by extremists who demanded that the Vatican should pay a £200,000 ransom and nail a written apology from the Pope to the priest’s church door.

Father Alexander’s body was found three days later. He had been disemboweled. His arms and legs were severed, then he was beheaded.

It is the most gruesome in a series of beheadings and other atrocities committed on Christians, including the brutal treatment of a group of nuns journeying from Baghdad to Jordan .

In a letter to Miss Rice which was made public, Thomas Wenski, the Bishop of Orlando and the chairman of the bishop’s committee on international policy, said: “We deplore the sectarian violence engulfing the Shia and Sunni communities in Iraq . We are especially and acutely aware of the deliberate violence perpetrated against Christians and other vulnerable minorities.”

“The recent beheading of a Syriac Orthodox priest in Mosul, the crucifixion of a Christian teenager in Basra, the frequent kidnappings for ransom of Christians including four priests … the rape of Christian women and teenage girls, and the bombings of churches are all indicators that the situation has reached a crisis point.”

The bishops have asked Miss Rice to consider the creation of a new ‘administrative region’ in the northern Nineveh Plain area that would be governed by Baghdad but controlled by the Kurds, who they described as the ‘key to stability’ in the country.

“This could provide Christians and other minorities with greater safety and offer more opportunity to control their own affairs,” Bishop Wenski wrote.

John Pontifex of the British branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a charity set up to help persecuted Christians, said he was aware of reports of the crucifixion of a Christian boy in Basra in October, but had not details.

He said he also agreed with the US bishops’ assessment of the situation in Iraq . “What we are now witnessing in Iraq is a vicious attempt to wipe Christianity from the face of a country,” he said yesterday.

“Beheadings, killings, arrests and torture, it is the stuff of nightmares, an era every bit as cruel as the persecution of Christians in Roman times.”

Walt Grazer, policy advisor in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace in Washington , said: “We have few details of the crucifixion because it is so difficult getting information out of Iraq .

“We are trying to find out more about this and all the other incidents. We have a long history working with the US State Department and I am sure Miss Rice will take this letter very seriously.”