Christians mark Christmas under threatArticle from: Agence France-PresseFont size:
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Print by Mujahid Mohammed
December 24, 2009 10:07pm
..IRAQ'S dwindling Christian population has little to celebrate this Christmas after a spate of attacks against their community included several being killed and the army being put on alert.
In the main northern city of Mosul, where the Christian minority has long been concentrated, churches have been bombed, Christians gunned down and the community is fearful.
The latest victim was a Christian minibus driver who was killed today in east Mosul by unknown gunmen, police said.
It was the seventh attack targeting Christians in the city in the past month.
"This was all a dream we used to live in for many years, and then the nightmare came back and a black cloud came over us,'' said Jamil Butrus, a 59-year-old Christian lawyer.
"Our joy and parties turned to hell - killing, threats and explosions. You do not know what the aim of it is or who is doing it.''
The Iraqi army has been put on alert in areas with large Christian populations such as Mosul and the surrounding province of Nineveh, the ethnically mixed province of Kirkuk, and in Baghdad.
Troops have been out in force in Mosul since celebrations marking the Islamic new year last week and roads leading to churches have been closed off.
All of the city's churches are now guarded by checkpoints and military patrols.
"Today, the streets that lead to churches look like a military base - they are blocked by barbed wire and concrete barriers with policemen all around,'' said 56-year-old engineer Younis Mekha, a Christian.
"You have to park your car far away and then walk. Policemen or soldiers will give you a scary look and ask you where you are going, tell you to go back, that you are not allowed to go in.
"You tell him: 'Yes, I know, but I am a Christian and I have come to pray.' Then you give him your ID papers and after checking them, he lets you in.''
However the tight security measures have failed to prevent violence.
A bomb attack against an historic church in Mosul yesterday killed two people, both of them Muslims, and wounded five.
This was in our local paper - pray for them.