Two Assyrian Churches Looted in Baghdad
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(AINA) -- The situation for Iraq's Christian Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) is approaching a crisis level. On June 3rd an Assyrian priest and three deacons were gunned down in Mosul and their car booby trapped so that their bodies could not be recovered (AINA 6-3-2007). On May 28 an Assyrian couple that worked for the US embassy in Baghdad was killed by an al Qaeda-led group (AINA 6-2-2007).

An Iraqi government employee familiar with the situation, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being killed, told AINA that today St. Jacob Church Near the Asia Neighborhood (Hay Asya) in Dora was attacked and the Christian guards killed, the church was looted and will be turned into a mosque. St. John the Baptist Church near the Hay Al-Athoriyeen (Assyrian quarter) was also looted.

Muslim groups, mainly affiliated to al-Qaeda but also Shiites of Muqtada al-Sadr, have moved into Assyrian neighborhoods in Baghdad and begun imposing Shari'a (Islamic law) on Assyrians. Shari'a demands that Christians pay the jizya, the poll tax demanded by the Koran which all Christians and Jews must pay in exchange for being allowed to live and practice their faith as well as being entitled to 'Muslim protection' from outside aggression.

The attacks on Assyrians, which began in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad in early March, when al-Qaeda moved in and began imposing Islamic law (AINA 4-17-2007, 3-18-2007), have now spread to Yarmouk, Qadisiya, and Mansour, where the jizya is being demanded.

According to the government employee, in the Hay al-Amiriya quarter a Sunni "Amir" (prince) demanded the car belonging to an Assyrian brother and sister who are orphans; their priest advised them to give up the car, which they did. The "prince" later returned and officially asked for the girl's hand in marriage. The girl had to go into hiding. In a report by the Catholic News Agency (AINA 5-18-2007), Mar Addai II, the Patriarch of the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East, says "Only the families that agree to give a daughter or sister in marriage to a Muslim can remain, which means that the entire nuclear family will progressively become Muslim." Also, Assyrian families are forced to turn over their homes as ransom for their kidnapped relatives.

Muslim persecution of Assyrians is not limited to al-Qaeda or Sunnis. On May 30 AINA reported that Sadr's Mahdi army ordered Christian women in Baghdad to veil themselves or face dire consequences (AINA, 5-30-2007).

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