Published: 12:52 GMT Standard Time - Thursday 04 November 2010
Christians everywhere “legitimate targets” – Al-Qaeda
Barnabas calls for prayer and political intervention
Barnabas Aid is calling for urgent prayer and political intervention after Al-Qaeda said Christians everywhere are "legitimate targets" following the bloody siege at a Baghdad church on Sunday.
A door to the Baghdad church
riddled with bullet holes
The Islamic State of Iraq, an Al-Qaeda front group, claimed responsibility for the attack that left 58 people dead and, in a statement on Tuesday, said that the "killing sword will not be lifted".
The threat was extended to "all Christian centres, organisations and institutions, leaders and followers" when a 48-hour deadline expired for the release of Muslim women the group falsely claims that the Egyptian Church is holding captive.
This was one of the demands made by the armed militants who took around 100 worshippers hostage during an evening service at the church in Baghdad on Sunday (31 October). They also demanded the release of Al-Qaeda prisoners held in Iraq. Dozens of Christians, as well as security forces and attackers, died in the ensuing fighting, with scores more wounded. Among the victims were Raghada al-Wafi, who was pregnant, and Thar Abdallah, the church minister who had conducted her wedding ceremony.
The latest Al-Qaeda threat has heightened fears for Iraq's beleaguered Christian community, as well as the Egyptian Church (press release 25 Oct - Egyptian Christians threatened with a “bloodbath” by Islamists) and believers across the Middle East. A senior Iraqi church leader said yesterday that it could force Christians to leave the country.
Sunday's siege was the deadliest recorded attack against Iraq's Christians, who have endured repeated violence since the US-led invasion in 2003. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee as a result of the attacks, their numbers falling from 1.5 million in 1990 to perhaps as low as 400,000 today.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, said:
Christians across the Middle East region are now in a highly perilous situation. We must fervently pray for their safety and also exert pressure on international governments to protect their Christian citizens.
Please write to your elected representative and ask them to raise this as a matter of urgency with the relevant government department (for UK readers please ask your MP to raise it with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office).
If you would like to donate to help our Christian brothers and sisters who suffer brutal treatment because of their faith please send your donation to project 00-345 (Victims of Violence). Please click to donate online using our secure server.
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference 00-345 (Victims of Violence).
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference 00-345 (Victims of Violence).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/345 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).
- That there will be no further violence in Iraq following Sunday's attack and subsequent co-ordinated bombings of Shiite districts.
- That Al-Qaeda's threats will not be carried out and that Christians across the Middle East will be kept safe.
- That governments will step in to protect their Christian citizens and take swift action against perpetrators of violence.