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Iraq : Christians Say Targeting By Extremists Amounts To Genocide

ICC Note

Iraqi Christians are facing unprecedented challenge in their 2000 years of existence in the region. Christians in the West and other parts of the world must act to save their Iraqi brothers and sisters from extermination.

By Kathleen Ridolfo

April 17,2008 Iraq (rferl.org)-Iraq’s Christian community says it is being targeted at an unprecedented level by insurgents, in what some claim amounts to a campaign of genocide carried out under the noses of Iraq and U.S. forces.

Unlike other groups in Iraq , Christians do not have militias or tribes to protect them. In their absence, they have relied on coalition and Iraqi forces for protection, and say they have been let down. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed to increase protection for the Christian community following the March killing of Mosul Archbishop Bulus Faraj Rahhu, but it does not appear that he has followed through on his pledge.

The first major attack against the Christian community in Iraq came in August 2004 when five Baghdad churches were bombed over a 30-minute period. The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) appeared to be responsible for the bombings, and for the majority of attacks that have since targeted the Christian community. The first bombings came in response to an influx of foreign Christian missionary groups following the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. Christians said the proselytizing of foreign missionaries to Muslims was seen as an arm of the U.S. occupation, and the indigenous Christian community was made to pay for the foreigners’ actions.

ISI’s main goal is to establish an Islamic state on the ground in Iraq that adheres to strict Islamic law. Christians who have fled Iraq report being pressured by Muslim insurgents, both Sunni and Shi’ite, to convert to Islam or leave Iraq . As ISI grew in strength, it increased its campaign against Christians, hanging posters in Baghdad ‘s Christian neighborhoods demanding Christian women veil their faces. Locals reported in June 2007 that nearly 200 Christian families had fled Baghdad ‘s Al-Durah neighborhood with just the clothes on their backs.

Europe May Offer Temporary Asylum

French and German officials have taken up the case of Christian refugees in recent weeks, saying they will push for their countries to give preference to Christians over other refugees fleeing Iraq , citing the bond of common faith

This week, members of the U.S. House of Representatives inaugurated the House Caucus on Religious Minorities in the Middle East . Iraqi religious minorities were on hand for the event, saying they would work to raise awareness in Congress to the violence and social displacement of minorities from once-integrated Iraqi cities.

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