DALLAS, December 26, 2013 — More than three dozen people were killed yesterday as car bombs went off in Christian areas of Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq. The first bomb struck an outdoor market in the Christian section of al-Athorien. According to the Associated Press, 11 people were killed and 21 wounded. The second car bomb was detonated as worshipers left Christmas Day services at St. John’s Catholic Church, killing 26 and wounding 38.
The attacks came despite measures taken by the Iraqi government to protect Christians from violence during the Christmas holidays. Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, had told the Assyrian News Agency Mawtani that the government launched a security plan that included thousands of security personnel and consisted in securing “all churches, monasteries, public parks, tourist resorts and markets, as well as residential areas where celebrations will be held and where citizens are expected to go out visiting each other.”
Todd Daniels, Regional Manager for the Middle East for International Christian Concern, said, “This is just the latest in a long series of attacks that are driving Christians out of the land where they have lived for nearly 2000 years. We call on Christians around the world to remember their brothers and sisters in Iraq and to stand with them in prayer.”
The U.S. embassy also condemned the attacks. “The United States Embassy condemns in the strongest terms today’s attacks in the Dora area of Baghdad that targeted Christians celebrating Christmas,” a statement from the embassy said. “The Christian community in Iraq has suffered deliberate and senseless targeting by terrorists for many years, as have many other innocent Iraqis.”
An in-depth report by Colin Freeman in The Telegraph details the decimation of the Christian community in Iraq. One million Christians lived in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s reign. After years of bombings, kidnappings, and other violence, only 200,000 now live there. The Dora neighborhood in Baghdad was once known as “the Vatican of Iraq” and was home to 30,000 Christian families. Only 2,000 Christians remain there today.
Many of those Christians who fled Iraq went to places like Syria and Egypt, where they are facing more violence and persecution. The plight of Christians may be gaining more notice from world leaders. Earlier this month, The Guardian reported that Prince Charles met with a group of Christians from the Middle East. “I have for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East,” he said. “It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants.”
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