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Iraq Christians face a tough X-Mas

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by Rutashubanyuma, Dec 25, 2010.

  1. Rutashubanyuma

    Rutashubanyuma JF-Expert Member

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    Iraqi Christians Exercise Caution for Christmas

    [​IMG] Shiho Fukada for The New York Times
    Iraqi Christians attended services in Baghdad on Friday at the Sacred Church of Jesus, a Chaldean Catholic church. Others stayed home, fearing violence.

    By JOHN LELAND

    Published: December 24, 2010


    BAGHDAD - As they gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the congregation here first contemplated death, represented by a spare Christmas tree decked with paper stars, each bearing a photograph of a member of a nearby church killed in a siege by Islamic militants in October.

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    Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

    Security guards were vigilant during the Christmas Eve Mass at the Sacred Church of Jesus, where attendance has dropped by half since October.



    The congregants on Friday night were fewer than 100, in a sanctuary built for four or five times as many. But they were determined. This year, even more than in the past, Iraqi's dwindling Christian minority had reasons to stay home for Christmas.
    "Yes, we are threatened, but we will not stop praying," the Rev. Meyassr al-Qaspotros told the Christmas Eve crowd at the Sacred Church of Jesus, a Chaldean Catholic church. "We do not want to leave the country because we will leave an empty space."
    He added: "Be careful not to hate the ones killing us because they know not what they are doing. God forgive them."
    Throughout Iraq, churches canceled or toned down Christmas observances this year, both in response to threats of violence and in honor of the nearly 60 Christians killed in October, when militants stormed a Syrian Catholic church and blew themselves up. Since the massacre, more than 1,000 Christian families have fled Baghdad for the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, with others going to Jordan or Syria or Turkey. Though the exact size of Iraq's Christian population is unclear, by some estimates it has fallen to about 500,000 from a high of 1.4 million before the American-led invasion of 2003. Iraq's total population is about 30 million.
    This week, a new threat appeared on a Web site that said it represented the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant group that claimed responsibility for the October church siege. The Web site referred to a church in Egypt that it said was holding two women because they had converted to Islam, and vowed more carnage. "We swear to God, if there are only two of us left," the text read, "one of the two will keep fighting you."
    Churches in Kirkuk, Mosul and Basra canceled or curtailed services for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and warned congregations not to hold parties or mount displays. In Baghdad, decorations were seen in stores, but many churches scaled back or held only prayer sessions.
    While Our Lady of Salvation, the church attacked in October, was among those that canceled services for Christmas Eve, it planned to hold services on Saturday. The Epiphany Dominican Convent canceled midnight Mass and then early Mass on Christmas morning so worshipers could avoid risky travel at vulnerable times. During the week, the church moved one Mass to a convent, so the nuns would not have to travel in religious dress.
    "People are lost," said the Rev. Rami Simon, one of five brothers at the convent. "They don't know where they live now. Is this Iraq?"
    For those who dare to attend services, he said: "I say, you must accept to live like the first Christians. They celebrated in a cave, and no one knew about it. So we are not the first to live it."
    But he added: "If I wasn't a priest, I would not stay one minute in Iraq. As a priest, I find myself a missionary in my country. And some stay because we are here."
    At the Sacred Church of Jesus, attendance has dropped by half since October, Father Qaspotros said. He said he offered this reply to people who tell him they are afraid to come to church: "You are not supposed to be afraid. You are supposed to connect with God, and death is not the last step. If we die, we survive for God."
    For Faez Shakur, 25, who attended Father Qaspotros's service on Christmas Eve, this was the message he took away. "Whenever there is disaster," he said, "it means a new day, a new life." When he saw the tree decorated with the faces of the dead, he cried, he said. But he was where he belonged, he said. "We don't have anything else," he said, "just to pray and continue."
     
  2. Rutashubanyuma

    Rutashubanyuma JF-Expert Member

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  3. Rutashubanyuma

    Rutashubanyuma JF-Expert Member

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  4. Rutashubanyuma

    Rutashubanyuma JF-Expert Member

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  5. Rutashubanyuma

    Rutashubanyuma JF-Expert Member

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  6. Rutashubanyuma

    Rutashubanyuma JF-Expert Member

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  7. Rutashubanyuma

    Rutashubanyuma JF-Expert Member

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    The Christians who suffer for their faith at Christmas

    Christians in countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan continue to be persecuted for their beliefs



    • [​IMG]
    • [​IMG] Christians at a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington DC in support of Egyptian Coptic Christians. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images As Christians the world over celebrate the miracle of the Jesus's birth, there are many for whom this season is a time of tension and uncertainty, while others languish in prisons around the world, from Iran to Vietnam, simply because they have chosen to follow their faith.
      Around 3,000 Christians are in prison in Eritrea, held without trial in appalling conditions, and suffering threats and beatings simply on account of their faith. In Iraq, where 52 people died in Our Lady of Salvation Catholic church in Baghdad when security forces attempted to free worshippers taken hostage by militants, some Christian communities have decided against Christmas celebrations, for fear of attacks by extremist groups.
      In Egypt, Christians gathering in church for Coptic Christmas Eve mass on 7 January will be acutely aware of the drive-by shooting after mass in Nag Hammadi just one year ago that claimed the lives of eight Christians and a Muslim security official, and which was the precursor to further attacks on Christian communities in the surrounding area.
      Christians in prison for their faith bear the weight of fear and uncertainty without the comfort of their community around them, and in some cases in solitary confinement, like Iranian Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani. Initially arrested in January after being summoned to Shiraz to explain church activities, Pastor Khanjani was released on bail in March but rearrested on 16 June and sent to an infamous political prison, where he has spent much of his detention in solitary confinement. He has only had access to his lawyer once between his arrest and late November, while his health has deteriorated steadily due to the harsh and unsanitary conditions in the prison, where Christian prisoners are reportedly subjected to eight hours of interrogation a day, and some are kept in cramped conditions where they are unable to sleep.
      Pastor Khanjani is charged with apostasy – leaving Islam, blasphemy and contact with the enemy, and is facing a possible death sentence. Also facing a death sentence is Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who was charged with apostasy on 13 October after questioning the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran, which contravenes the Iranian constitution, under which a parent is permitted to raise children in their own faith. The written confirmation of the court's sentence – the death penalty – was delivered on 13 November. His appeal is pending.
      In Pakistan on 7 November, Asia Bibi, a Christian, is believed to have become the first woman to be handed a death sentence for blasphemy under the country's controversial blasphemy laws, a dubious distinction. She has been in prison since the case against her was registered in June 2009 and her appeal is pending. So far nobody sentenced to death for blasphemy has been executed in Pakistan; many await a decision on their cases in prison, including Waji ul-Hassan, a Christian who has been on death row since 2002. Although the majority of blasphemy cases are brought against Muslims, for Christians and other minorities, once an allegation has been made, they and their family become potential targets for extra-judicial violence.
      Christians are not only under pressure in Muslim countries. In Cuba, for example, members of the Apostolic movement, a non-denominational group have been subject to official harassment. Their meeting places have been destroyed and pastors have been subjected to harassment, eviction from their homes and arbitrary detention. Pastor Omar Gude Pérez was sent to prison in 2002 for six years on fabricated charges of "human trafficking." Even when the charges were dropped in March 2009, after a court in Camaguey ruled that there was no evidence against him, Pastor Perez was not released. He and other leaders in the Apostolic movement languish in prison on false charges at a time when Cuba has benefited from the good publicity of releasing some political prisoners detained since a crackdown on dissidents in 2003.
      In China, despite improvements in religious freedom and greater rapport between the official Three-Self church and house church network, Alimujiang Yimiti, a Christian from Xinjiang province convicted in a secret trial in July 2009 of "instigating separatism and revealing state secrets" but who used to work as a project manager for a British company has, according to the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention, been detained solely because of his faith.
      The story of Jesus's birth is one of hope, a hope that was swiftly followed by persecution, as shown by his family's escape to Egypt. At Christmas, God came to live with humanity, to unite us with Him and to faithfully accompany us through all of life's seasons, good and bad. Some can celebrate this hope openly, surrounded by family and friends. However, others will celebrate in secret, in prison, perhaps even in solitary confinement – but never truly alone.
     
  8. Rutashubanyuma

    Rutashubanyuma JF-Expert Member

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    Dec 25, 2010
    Joined: Sep 24, 2010
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    The Christians who suffer for their faith at Christmas

    Christians in countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan continue to be persecuted for their beliefs



    • [​IMG]
    • [​IMG] Christians at a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington DC in support of Egyptian Coptic Christians. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images As Christians the world over celebrate the miracle of the Jesus's birth, there are many for whom this season is a time of tension and uncertainty, while others languish in prisons around the world, from Iran to Vietnam, simply because they have chosen to follow their faith.
      Around 3,000 Christians are in prison in Eritrea, held without trial in appalling conditions, and suffering threats and beatings simply on account of their faith. In Iraq, where 52 people died in Our Lady of Salvation Catholic church in Baghdad when security forces attempted to free worshippers taken hostage by militants, some Christian communities have decided against Christmas celebrations, for fear of attacks by extremist groups.
      In Egypt, Christians gathering in church for Coptic Christmas Eve mass on 7 January will be acutely aware of the drive-by shooting after mass in Nag Hammadi just one year ago that claimed the lives of eight Christians and a Muslim security official, and which was the precursor to further attacks on Christian communities in the surrounding area.
      Christians in prison for their faith bear the weight of fear and uncertainty without the comfort of their community around them, and in some cases in solitary confinement, like Iranian Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani. Initially arrested in January after being summoned to Shiraz to explain church activities, Pastor Khanjani was released on bail in March but rearrested on 16 June and sent to an infamous political prison, where he has spent much of his detention in solitary confinement. He has only had access to his lawyer once between his arrest and late November, while his health has deteriorated steadily due to the harsh and unsanitary conditions in the prison, where Christian prisoners are reportedly subjected to eight hours of interrogation a day, and some are kept in cramped conditions where they are unable to sleep.
      Pastor Khanjani is charged with apostasy – leaving Islam, blasphemy and contact with the enemy, and is facing a possible death sentence. Also facing a death sentence is Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who was charged with apostasy on 13 October after questioning the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran, which contravenes the Iranian constitution, under which a parent is permitted to raise children in their own faith. The written confirmation of the court's sentence – the death penalty – was delivered on 13 November. His appeal is pending.
      In Pakistan on 7 November, Asia Bibi, a Christian, is believed to have become the first woman to be handed a death sentence for blasphemy under the country's controversial blasphemy laws, a dubious distinction. She has been in prison since the case against her was registered in June 2009 and her appeal is pending. So far nobody sentenced to death for blasphemy has been executed in Pakistan; many await a decision on their cases in prison, including Waji ul-Hassan, a Christian who has been on death row since 2002. Although the majority of blasphemy cases are brought against Muslims, for Christians and other minorities, once an allegation has been made, they and their family become potential targets for extra-judicial violence.
      Christians are not only under pressure in Muslim countries. In Cuba, for example, members of the Apostolic movement, a non-denominational group have been subject to official harassment. Their meeting places have been destroyed and pastors have been subjected to harassment, eviction from their homes and arbitrary detention. Pastor Omar Gude Pérez was sent to prison in 2002 for six years on fabricated charges of "human trafficking." Even when the charges were dropped in March 2009, after a court in Camaguey ruled that there was no evidence against him, Pastor Perez was not released. He and other leaders in the Apostolic movement languish in prison on false charges at a time when Cuba has benefited from the good publicity of releasing some political prisoners detained since a crackdown on dissidents in 2003.
      In China, despite improvements in religious freedom and greater rapport between the official Three-Self church and house church network, Alimujiang Yimiti, a Christian from Xinjiang province convicted in a secret trial in July 2009 of "instigating separatism and revealing state secrets" but who used to work as a project manager for a British company has, according to the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention, been detained solely because of his faith.
      The story of Jesus's birth is one of hope, a hope that was swiftly followed by persecution, as shown by his family's escape to Egypt. At Christmas, God came to live with humanity, to unite us with Him and to faithfully accompany us through all of life's seasons, good and bad. Some can celebrate this hope openly, surrounded by family and friends. However, others will celebrate in secret, in prison, perhaps even in solitary confinement – but never truly alone.
     
  9. hashycool

    hashycool JF-Expert Member

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    Dec 25, 2010
    Joined: Oct 2, 2010
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    this aint cool at all!!!
     
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