Bombs in Iraq have left 37 Christians dead after Christmas Day attacks. The first attack came from two bombs that simultaneously exploded in a crowded Christian market, killing 11 and wounding 21 others. Earlier this morning, a car bomb detonated near a church in the Dora district during Christmas mass, killing at least 26 and wounding another 38. These attacks come at the end of a year that has seen violence rise to levels not seen in the cities of Iraq since 2008, and the obvious targeting of Christians, Shiites, Iraqi security forces, and innocent civilians is believed to be a ploy to increase ethnic tensions and undermine confidence in the Shiite controlled government.
Christians in Iraq once nearly equaled other major religions in the region such as Shiites and Sunnis, with an estimated 1.5 million Christians living in the country in 2003. Now, however, after a decade of attacks and discrimination, there is thought to be only about 500,000. Ten to 20 Christians are believed to be leaving Iraq every day, and news of these attacks will most likely cause further emigration. Christian leaders across the Arab world are alarmed at the sudden increase in attacks, but say that leaving the country is not a solution. Shiite leaders were quick to point out that they are also the target of these attacks, and that Christians and Shiites should think of each other as partners in the ongoing conflicts.
Although no one has admitted to the attacks, it is believed that local Al Qaeda militant groups are responsible for the 37 Christians dead after Christmas Day attacks. In the background of the bombings, Iraq military forces are working to root out Militant strongholds in the desert west of the capital city. Previous attacks from these militants have brought the death toll of December to a horrifying 441, with over 8,000 believed killed by terrorist attacks this year. It is thought that these Christmas Day attacks are meant to apply extra pressure on the government, allowing the terrorists a chance to regroup while their focus is split. The U.S. State Department has condemned these heartless tactics, with the U.S. embassy in Baghdad saying, “The Christian community in Iraq has suffered deliberate and senseless targeting by terrorists for many years, as have many other innocent Iraqis.”
With such unrestrained violence on display, the 37 Christians dead after Christmas Day attacks almost become just another figure and statistic, but what must be taken away from these acts is, as Mr. Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq says, “There are people in this country who believe that anyone who has a different opinion should be killed.” People must see that the important thing is not the religion of those attacked, but the intention of the attackers. Killing to spread fear is abominable, but submitting to that fear allows the cycle of violence to continue and spin further out of control, plunging the area into deeper chaos. In these dark times, Christians and Shiites alike must look forward to the light of the future.
Editorial By Daniel O’Brien