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Iraq Christians struggle to have a merry Christmas

The life of Iraqi Christians has not been easy. Since a siege directed against Christians in Baghdad in October 2010 killed 52 people, the situation of the followers of Christ in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation has grown worse.
By: Luiza Oleszczuk Christian Post

About 500,000 Christians remain in Iraq, down from an estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million in 2003, according to a report by Minority Rights Group International, a research body. Persecution makes the Christian community smaller each year, with churches as well as households being targeted and causing worshippers to flee.

The Christmas holiday season has rarely been a happy one for Christians in the Middle East, where they are often not allowed to raise church buildings and house churches often experience raids and harassment. Experts on the region say the Christmas season is a particularly dangerous period for the Christian minority, when numerous acts of violence and vandalism take place.

The most recent of such attacks in Iraq occured on Dec. 2, when at least 25 people, many of them Christian, were wounded in an attack carried out by a group of Kurds in the Dohuk Governate in the north of the country. Dozens of young Kurds – men who reportedly had been "instigated" by Muslim clerics – attacked several small businesses in Zakho, a city that at various times served as a checkpoint on the border with Turkey, according to a CNN report.

The news network claims the attackers were targeting "a number of tourist facilities, especially facilities owned by ... Christians and Yazidis." (Yazidis are one of Iraq's smallest religious minorities, their beliefs draw from Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.) A local Kurdish leader reportedly said that authorities made "a major effort" to prevent the "acts of sabotage, but they could not." Several police officers were among those wounded. "I denounce these inhumane and illegal acts, and I call on the people of Kurdistan to respect the national, religious and sectarian coexistence and take it as a basic goal for them to live together peacefully,"

Massoud Barzani, the president of the Iraq's Kurdistan autonomous region, told CNN at the time. The Wall Street Journal reported on the situation of Christians from Iraq in a Monday feature, calling the public's attention to another factor that is stirring the situation in the region – the democratic uprisings spreading across the Middle East. “With the Arab Spring now bringing political turbulence to many other countries in the region, Christians throughout the Middle East are worried that what happened in Iraq may be a harbinger of misfortune to come in their own communities.

While many remain supporters of the uprisings, others fear that the toppling of their autocratic rulers could uncork sectarian violence against Christians and other minority groups in their own nations," the WSJ's Sam Dagher wrote. Such violence already took place in Egypt. Tensions between Coptic Christians and Muslims have escalated since the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak after the Arab Spring uprisings. Mubarak was an open protector of Christians, and after the Jan. 25 revolution, several radical Islamic groups gained political power.

On Oct. 26, Coptic Christians were killed in Cairo, after Egypt's military and police sought to quell peaceful protests by members of the country's largest Christian denomination, the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Currently, the Egyptian diaspora await fearfully what future the newly-minted government will bring. In Iraq, the U.S. invasion and fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 brought sectarian violence that shook all Iraqis, including Muslim Shiites and Sunnis, according to the WSJ. But it has been catastrophic for the "nation's fragile Christian communities."

Iraqi Christians are caught amidst political brawls between the majority Shiite Muslims, the Sunni Muslims and the Kurds (in the north) who are predominantly Muslim, experts say. At least 54 Iraqi churches have been bombed and at least 905 Christians killed in various acts of violence since the U.S. invasion toppled Hussein in 2003, WSJ reported. Since 2003, attacks against these minorities by insurgents and religious extremists have driven more than half of them out of the country, according to U.N. statistics. The persecution has been causing Christians not only to flee, but to conceal their identity.

According to Minority Rights Group International, Christian and other religious minority women in Iraq have been forced to wear a head-scarf to protect themselves from attacks. "Christian women in Kirkuk and Mosul report feeling extremely insecure outside their homes," the organization says in a report. Archbishop Louis Sako of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the northern provinces of Kirkuk and Sulimaniya told the WSJ recently that "Iraq could be emptied of Christians" completely, if the persecution continues with such intensity.

Religious minorities, such as Christians and Yazidis, make up less than 5 percent of Iraq's population, according to the U.N.'s data division, as reported by WSJ. As Christmas approaches, Iraqi Christians, while marking the birth of Jesus, will likely also recall the grim holiday season many of them experienced last year.








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December = Kanoon I

Iraq Christians struggle to have a merry Christmas
Dec. 7. 2011

Islamic Rioters Attack Christian Shops in Northern Iraq
Dec. 7. 2011

An 'Arab Winter' Chills Christians Dec. 5. 2011

Kurdish leader: Clerics 'instigated acts of sabotage, against Assyrians Dec. 3. 2011

Nov. = Tishreen I I

Thousands of Muslims attacked and besieged Copts
Nov. 30, 2011

Damage to the Assyrian archaeological since the 2003-U.S. invasion Nov. 26, 2011

As the Arab Spring turns into winter of Islamic discontent
Nov. 26, 2011

Does the Crucifix 'Provoke' Muslims?
Nov. 04, 2011

Al Nujaifi: Attacks against Christians affect all Iraqis
Nov. 04, 2011

Maronite Patriarch Rai heads to Iraq to express solidarity
Nov. 01, 2011

Sept. = Eilool

A Young Assyrian Car Designer Sept, 18, 2011

The Martyred Church- History of the Church of the East Sept, 16, 2011

Assyrian Professor Awarded for High Performance Computing Work Sept, 12, 2011

The Arab Spring and Christian Persecution Sept, 10, 2011

Muslims Blockade Christian Village in Egypt, Demand Demolition of Church Sept, 9, 2011

Muslim Persecution of Christians: August, 2011

August = Tubbaq

The Jihad Against the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christians August 9, 2011

Iraq Church Bombing Wounds At Least 23 August 2, 2011

July = Tamuz 2011

House of Representatives House Considers Creation of Religious Freedom Envoy in Middle East, Asia
July 28, 2011

When Is an Ideology Responsible for Murder? July 28, 2011

FAITH UNDER FIRE Christians facing 'deletion' on Nineveh Plain July 24, 2011

Al-Qaeda Cell in Baghdad Smashed July 24, 2011

Director uses art to educate about his culture July 24, 2011

Iraqi paper claims Jews kidnap Christians to convert
July 21, 2011

Statement by Iraqi Parliament Speaker Disappoints Assyrians July 21, 2011

June = Khziran

Kabul Siege Signals Time To Get Out June 29, 011

Yaar = May

Iraq Assyrian Killed, Mutilated in Northern Iraq May 17, 2011

Armenian Parliament Calls for Recognition of Armenian, Assyrian, Hellenic Genocides May 03, 2011

Nissan = April

Worldwide Islamic Anti-Blasphemy Measure Laid to Rest April 1, 2011

Assyrian Patriarch Meets With Turkish PM April 1, 2011

Adaar = March

Muslim Jihad in Christian Ethiopia: Lessons for the West March 27, 2011


The Life and death of Lina Yakubova March 23, 2011

Should we give aid to states riven by human rights abuses? March 23, 2011

Assyrian Genocide Research Center Welcomes Scholar to Its Board March 21, 2011

INTERNATIONAL Extinction of Iraq’s Christians must be Prevented March 21, 2011

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March 19, 2011

Turkey's confiscation of Land belonging to The St. Gabriel Assyrian Monastery March 19, 2011

Donny George, protector of Iraq's ancient riches Died March 18, 2011

American Muslims Versus Congressman, Peter King March 8, 2011

Iraqi Archbishop Blames lack of Liberty, and Security for his Flocks Suffering March 6, 2011

Iraqi Christians to Congress: Please Help
March 2, 2011

Were Iraqi Security Forces Involved in Baghdad Church Massacre? March 2, 2011

Egyptian Armed Forces Shoot to Kill Christians at Monasteries, 19 Injured March 2, 2011

February = Eshvat

Film About Assyrian Genocide in Iraq to Debut in Michigan Feb 28, 2011

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Feb 27, 2011

Iraq Abuse Worsening for Women and Minorities Feb 23, 2011

Iraq's Christian Leaders Unhappy With Lack of Action on Nineveh Plain Feb 23, 2011

Global Islamic upheaval takes toll on Christians Feb 23, 2011

Turkish Judicial System Does Not Meet EU Standards Feb 23, 2011

Anger over court’s decision to acquit suspects in Coptic killing case Feb 23, 2011

Reconciled By the St. Gabriel Assyrian Monastery in Turkey Feb 20, 2011

‘Religicide’ in Iraq Feb 16, 2011

Truth About Sharia Law and Women Feb. 16, 2011

Persecuted Iraqi Christians Reach Out to US.
Feb. 15, 2011

Australian MP Calls Attention to Persecution of Iraq's Assyrians Feb. 10, 2011

Campaign to separate the Syrian Orthodox Church from its Assyrian Heritage
Feb. 9, 2011

Iranians Crack Down on Christian Churches Feb. 9, 2011

Who will defend Mideast Christians? Feb. 8, 2011

Christians of Iraq are in danger Feb. 2, 2011

Failing Christians is damaging EU credibility, says Italy Frattini Feb. 1, 2011

January = Kanoon II

Church to build hospital and university in Iraq
Jan, 31, 2011

“Syria Opens the Gateway to Humanity for the Assyrian Medical Society, the Mission Continues.”
Jan, 28, 2011

Assyrians Without Borders Announces Scholarship Awards Program Jan, 28, 2011

Hearing in Washington about attacks against christians of Iraq and Egypt Jan. 27, 2011

Babylonian cuneiform tablets document Syria’s history Jan. 26, 2011

As the left sides with Muslims, Christians search for support Jan. 24, 2011

Congress to Press Obama on Religious Persecution
Jan. 21, 2011

Abrogation in Islam and The Persecution
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Jan. 21, 2011

Last Christians Ponder Leaving a Hometown in Iraq Jan. 20, 2011

Assyrian Youth Black March Movement Conference in Detroit Jan. 19, 2011

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Jan. 8, 2011

France asks for coordinated European Union response to threats against Christians in Middle East Jan. 5. 2011

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Jan. 4. 2011

Egyptian Security Guards Withdrew One Hour Before Church Blast Jan. 2. 2011

We may be witnessing a new age of Christian persecution
Jan. 2. 2011