AINA Editorial
Remembering the Black Sunday Massacre and the Future of Assyrians in Iraq
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(AINA) -- On October 31, 2010 Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked Our Lady of Deliverance Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad during a Sunday evening church service. The terrorists shot at parishioners and set fire to their explosives, ultimately killing 58 parishioners, including two priests. The youngest victim was Adam Udai, aged 3, who pleaded with one of the terrorists to "please stop" before he was murdered.

Called Black Sunday, it was the worst violence against Assyrians since the liberation of Iraq in April, 2003. It mobilized Assyrians worldwide, who held simultaneous demonstrations in 20 cities around the world on November 8, 2010.

Pictures of the Black Sunday Massacre.
Full coverage of the Black Sunday Massacre.

The attack was one in a long series of attacks against the Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) in Iraq. Since June 26, 2004, when the first church was bombed, Assyrians have been subject to a low grade genocide perpetrated by Shiite and Sunni Muslims, as well as Kurds (report). 70 churches have been bombed since June 2004, 4 since Black Sunday. Thousands of Assyrians have been killed and nearly one half of Assyrians have fled to Syria and Jordan.

The over-whelming majority of the attacks against Assyrians in Iraq have been by Jihadists (with a small percentage related to the cottage industry of kidnapping for ransom). In an atmosphere of rising Muslim fundamentalism across the Middle East, Assyrians and other Christians have been targeted by Muslims.

When the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the Al-Qaeda affiliated group, carried out the Black Sunday Massacre, one of their demands made via telephone to Iraqi authorities was the release of Camelia Shehata, whom they believed had converted to Islam but was being held against her will in a monastery by the Coptic church of Egypt (AINA 11-12-2010).

The following video (with English subtitles), posted on January 5, 2011, is a statement by ISI. At the 1:00 mark, the narrator ties the Black Sunday massacre in Iraq to events in Egypt, specifically the alleged imprisonment by the Coptic Church of women who had converted to Islam. The narrator demands the release of the Egyptian woman in exchange for the release of the Assyrian parishioners held by ISI (AINA 11-4-2010). The video goes on to warn the Vatican to pressure the Coptic Church to release the "imprisoned" Muslim women "...otherwise death will come to you all, and will bring destruction to all Christians in the region."

The narrator says "Allah has granted us Jihad."

The Islamic resurgence in the Middle East and Africa has seen governments fall to the "Arab Spring" only to be replaced by Islamist leaning regimes. In Egypt, the persecution of the Coptic Christians by Muslims has increased since the January 25 revolution. In Tunisia, the elections last week brought into power the formerly banned Islamic party. In Libya, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council and de facto president, declared that Libyan laws in the future would have Sharia, the Islamic code, as its "basic source" (AINA 10-24-2011).

This does not bode well for Assyrians and other Christian groups in the Middle East. While the previous autocratic regimes of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak, as well as the terminal Assad regime in Syria, were not friendly to Christians, they were at least tolerant and kept the Islamists at bay. They at least enforced civil security. The Islamic regimes replacing them are motivated by Jihad and a fervor to do Allah's work. For non-Muslims this only means persecution and violence. It is not, therefore, surprising that Christians are leaving the Middle East faster than ever before. Nearly 50% of Assyrians have left Iraq since 2004. About 100,000 Copts have left Egypt since March, 2011 (AINA 9-27-2011).

For Assyrians in Iraq, the scheduled departure of U.S. forces at the end of December, 2011 is of great concern. The Shiite Maliki government is under the influence of Iran and the Shiites have not been friendly to Assyrians in Iraq, as they have engaged in the persecution and killing of Assyrians since 2004 (report). Without the U.S. presence as a deterrent, Assyrians face the danger of unchecked Islamic persecution.

For the United States and Europe, the lesson of the Black Sunday massacre should be clear: the Islamists are transnational, for them there are no nations, only the umma (the Islamic nation) ruled by Sharia. In Sharia there is no separation between mosque and state -- the mosque is the state. Western governments must craft their foreign policy with this in mind, and develop policies to pressure Islamic governments to ensure that Christians and other non-Muslims are protected from the discriminatory laws and practices prescribed by Sharia.

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