Posted by: bahareiran | November 5, 2010

Iraqi Christians After Attack on Baghdad Cathedral

An Iraqi Christian woman (right) holds a picture of her son who was killed in the attack.

Radio Free Europe – November 04, 2010  – extracts

BAGHDAD — Vian Jabburi, a 22-year-old Roman Catholic, was celebrating Mass in Baghdad with her father on October 31 when Al-Qaeda militants stormed the church.

Shot through her shoulder during the ensuing siege, Jabburi survived. Her father was also shot and slowly bled to death, while she lay helpless at his side in a pool of her own blood.

“Nothing resembles this experience. Nothing,” Jabburi tells RFE/RL as she breaks down in tears at her father’s funeral. “The situation was very, very difficult. I still don’t know whether it was reality or just a nightmare. I do not know. I really don’t know.

Jabburi is among thousands of Iraqi Christians who suffered through years of sectarian violence in Iraq but is now considering whether to stay any longer.

“Those who have an injured member of their family or lost a loved one, they are talking about leaving the country,” Ammanuel says. “We do not want this to happen and we do not encourage it. But still, we can not stop people from thinking this way. I have been discussing this with them. But what can I say and how can I reply when they ask me if I am going to bring back the ones they have lost?”

‘This Is Our Country’

But other Iraqi Christians are adamant in their determination to stay. Among them is the family of Hanan Fadhil, a math teacher in the Karrada district whose cousin was killed in the October 31 assault.

“They want to destroy the country and create divisions and conflicts,” Fadhil says. “We’ve been living here all our lives and we are not going to leave Iraq. We will stay. This is our country. I was born in 1956 and I’m now 54 years old. I’ve been here since then. How can I leave this country?”

Baghdad’s heavily fortified Karrada district has been an island of tolerance in Baghdad, where Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims have continued to live alongside Christians in relative harmony.

“But I have to say that Muslims do not do such things,” he continues. “Those who commit such acts are not believers of Islam nor Christianity and not even in God. When they have the chance, they come to kill and to massacre people regardless of whether the victims are Muslims or Christians.”

During the rule of Saddam Hussein, there were an estimated 1.4 million Christians living in Iraq — many of them Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians, but also a smaller number of Roman Catholics.

Exact figures are impossible to confirm, but some estimates say two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians have left the country since 2003 — leaving fewer than 450,000 Iraqi Christians there today.

Al-Qaeda militants want the exodus to continue. On November 3 they threatened to carry out more attacks against Iraqi Christians.

Inflaming Sectarian Strife

“The only reason for what happened, not only [at the cathedral] but for what is happening every day, is the incompetence of [Iraqi] security forces, especially those deployed in the Karrada district,” says Ahmad Jassim, a 40-year-old Shi’ite Muslim who owns a minimarket close to the cathedral in Karrada.

“We know there is a checkpoint or a police car in front of every church,” he continues. “Now, how did the gunmen enter the church? Were there clashes before? We did not hear about clashes, which means [the gunmen] entered very easily. Again, how did this happen, especially in Karrada, which is almost like a military camp now?”

That sentiment reflects the concerns of many Baghdad residents — whether Shi’ite, Sunni, or Christian — who say they have little confidence in the protection provided by Iraqi security forces as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq continues.

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