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Iraq's Christians Need Protection

Only a week ago, Pope Benedict XVI closed a synod of Middle Eastern bishops with a passionate call for peace.

"We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent," the pope told bishops who had come to Rome discuss the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

Evidently few people were listening. On Sunday, Islamic militants killed 58 people in an attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad during evening Mass. Among the dead were two priests.

Religious leaders from around the world condemned the attacks, including Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani.

Condemnation, however, is not enough. Iraqi leaders and security forces must do more to protect a Christian population whose roots in the country reach back in history.

Americans, in particular, should be outraged because thousands of our soldiers fought and died to rid Iraq of one tyrant and build some semblance of toleration in a country and a city that was once the pinnacle of civilization.

Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians have had to flee the country since the U.S.-led invasion and the fall of Sadaam Hussein.

It's not a good development for Iraq, because many of the country's doctors and professionals are Christian.

But what angers us most is the fact that the Islamic militants who perpetrated this attack - reportedly a group linked to al-Qaida - consider themselves martyrs.

According to news accounts of the attack, one of the priests murdered in the attack, Taher Saadallah Boutros told his killers, "kill me but let the worshippers go in peace."

Those were the words of a true martyr.


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