Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Iraqi Christians Might Resume Exodus

Attacks on Holy Sites Seen as a Message to Get Out

KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, JAN. 15, 2008 ( The Catholic exodus from Iraq might resume in the wake of recent attacks against Christian holy places, warns the charity organization Aid to the Church in Need.

The charity organization made its declaration based on reports it collected from Christians in Iraq after a series of attacks in early January.

"The attacks had the goal of terrorizing Christians so they leave the region, and to make those Iraqi Christians who have emigrated and are hoping to return cancel their plans," an organization statement said.

Aid to the Church in Need considers that "given the small extent of the material damage caused by the bombs, it is not very likely that the attackers aimed to cause injuries or greater damage."

The first attacks were Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany for the Catholic Church, and the Orthodox Church's Christmas Eve. The bombs damaged six churches in Baghdad and Mosul. The second attacks were Jan. 9.

Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk said he thinks the bombings are a political message, directed at terrorizing the Christian community of the area, which had suffered relatively few acts of violence or intimidation.

Marie-Ange Siebrecht, Aid to the Church in Need's Middle East expert, lamented that the press has given little attention to the situation of Christians in Iraq.

"It would be a catastrophe to separate the Christians from the rest," she said. "For such a long time, they have coexisted as part of this society."

Siebrecht said it is impossible to determine the exact number of Christians who are still in Iraq, but it is thought that more than half of those who used to live there have already left the country.

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