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Christians ‘on verge of extinction’ in Iraq, Muslim leader warns

Christians ‘on verge of extinction’ in Iraq, Muslim leader warns
Iraqi security forces stand guard outside the National
Evangelical church in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city. Iraq’s
Christian churches are under heavy security following last Sunday’s
siege on Our… AP

A Muslim leader is calling on the Iraqi government and US-led forces
to step up their efforts to protect the Christian minority in Iraq from
extinction.

Navaid Hamid, Secretary of the South Asian Council for Minorities
(SACM) and a Muslim, said the deadly attack last weekend on a church in
Baghdad was a heinous crime that should be strongly condemned by the
international community.

“With the murderous attack, the safety of Iraq’s Christian minority
has become critical and it is the prime responsibility not only of the
regime in Baghdad but also that of the allied forces led by [the] US to
restore confidence and provide safety because never in the history of
Iraq, minorities were so vulnerable [sic],” he said.

Around 58 people are believed to have died when al-Qaeda linked
militants stormed the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad and opened
fire on the congregation.

Hamid said Christians in Iraq were “paying a high price” for their
faith and living in fear because of the “unprecedented” levels of
violence against them.

“It is a fact that they are on the verge of extinction in Iraq,” he said.

An estimated 400,000 Christians have left Iraq and sought asylum in
the US and Europe because of the persecution they face in Iraq.

The biggest victims of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Hamid said, were its minorities.

“[They] have become easy target [sic] for terrorist attacks in their own country,” he said.

Earlier this week, Christian and Muslim leaders issued a joint
statement condemning the attack on the church in Baghdad. Signatories
of the letter included Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan and
representatives of the World Council of Churches.

They said the attack was an “inhumane” act that “contradicts all
religious teachings and Middle Eastern culture that enabled people to
coexist for many centuries”.

They called on the UN Security Council and Iraqi officials to put an
end to terrorist attacks “aimed at degrading Iraqi people … and defiling
Christian and Islamic sacred places”.

The Islamic State of Iraq, the group which claimed responsibility for
the attack, has threatened to continue targeting Christians. It says
it attacked the church in retaliation for the supposed detention of two
women converts to Islam by the Coptic Church in Egypt.

According to the Associated Press, the Church’s head, Pope Shenouda
III, said God had turned the attack to good by creating sympathy for his
church.

Christians who turned up to St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo for
Wednesday’s service were made to pass through metal detectors before
being allowed in.

Addressing the congregation, Shenouda said: “God either prevents evil
or turns it to good. Affirming that everything turns to good, the
message that reached us brought sympathy for us from the Noble Al-Azhar
[a revered institution of higher learning in Egypt] and from many
writers and journalists and the interior ministry and police.”

In Iraq, armed security guards have been placed outside some churches after last Sunday’s attack.

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