Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First church in 8 years opens in Kirkuk, Iraq

Despite threats, first new church
in 8 years opens in Kirkuk, Iraq. 
Despite threats against them, hundreds of Iraqi Christians celebrated the opening of their new church in Kirkuk, the first to be built in eight years, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

Al-Qaida and militant groups linked to it have increased threats and attacks against Christians in Iraq, who make up less than 3 percent of the nation’s population. Most Christians have left the country or have been forced to move from their hometowns due to continuous attacks. It is estimated that there are now less than half a million Christians living in Iraq.

“This church, and our presence here to celebrate its birth, is the strongest message that we are staying in our land,” said Fawziya Hanna.

Saint Paul’s is the first newly built church to open since 2003. The church was built on land donated by the government and was constructed through money from various donors, including President Jalal Talabani.

Christian families in Iraq have faced a host of threats and violence recently. In October, approximately 60 people died in a Baghdad church hostage-taking by a group with links to al-Qaida (for more information on this attack, click here). The UN High Commission for Refugees said 1,000 families left Baghdad and Mosul in the two months following the attack.

Overall, violence in Iraq has declined since its peak in 2006, but Christians still continually face threats of death and kidnapping.

You can read the full article here and learn more about Iraq at our persecution report here.

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