The latest toll from the massacre of Iraqi Christians attending a church service in Baghdad on Sunday has now reached 58 dead and 78 wounded.
The attack by Muslim terrorists on the congregation of Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church was the bloodiest single attack on an Iraqi Christian church in recent history.
In responding to the attack, the White House issued a generic statement, saying the “United States strongly condemns this senseless act of hostage taking and violence by terrorists linked to al-Qaida in Iraq that occurred Sunday in Baghdad killing so many innocent Iraqis.”
The White House did not mention that the victims were Christians or that they had been attending church.
For Nina Shea, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, the White House response was “extremely political correct and uncaring.”
A prominent American Jewish leader agreed.
“We are stunned by the barbarity of this onslaught. We share the grief of the survivors, the families of victims, and our many friends in Christian communities worldwide,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
“But we are also outraged by the indifference of the international community. The only thing more outrageous than the systematic slaughter of families gathered in their place of worship is the overwhelming silence at this heinous act,” he added.
As Americans went to the polls on Tuesday, hundreds of mourners gathered at St. Joseph Chaldean church in Karrada, the same Baghdad neighborhood where Sunday’s attack took place.
Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, head of the largest Christian denomination in Iraq, said “They came to church to pray to God and fulfill their religious duty, but the devil’s hand entered the holy place to kill,” AFP reported.
Shea called the attack “another catastrophic blow that is likely to hasten the church’s wholesale flight from the country.”
The head of the Chaldean church in Jordan, Father Raymond Moussali, warned a recent Vatican synod of Middle East church leaders that jihadi Muslims were waging “a deliberate campaign to drive out the Christians” from Iraq.
“There are Satanic plans by extremist fundamentalist groups against Christians not only in Iraq, but in all the Middle East,” he said.
By most estimates, half of Iraq’s Christians have been forced to flee their homes since 2003. John Eiber, the CEO of Christian Solidarity International-USA, warns that Iraq’s Christians are “on the verge of extinction” because of jihadi violence.
Joseph Kassab, executive director of the Chaldean Federation of America, says that his organization is “calling for the international community to intervene in protecting and saving the indigenous people of Iraq, the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Community,” since there is no Iraqi government to take charge of internal security.
“Things are deteriorating very fast in Iraq, our people are left with no choice but to flee because they are losing hope and there is no serious actions taken to protect them as of today,” Kassab said.
Religious persecution in Iraq has become so “egregious” that Iraq has now been designated a “Country of Particular Concern” by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, says Shea.
One curious demand of the jihadi Muslims who seized control of the church, was that Egyptian Coptic Christian monasteries release Muslim girls they allegedly had taken captive.
The malicious rumor that Egyptian Copts have kidnapped girls said to have converted from Christianity to Islam has been spread by popular Muslim clerics in Egypt and picked up by Al Jazeera television.
The rumors have fueled anti-Christian riots and attacks on churches.
“These incidents show that more extreme forms of Islam are still growing in the Muslim world, even in countries such as Egypt, often regarded as moderate,” according to Hudson Institute scholar Paul Marshall.
While the Vatican synod convened by Pope Benedict XVI was intended to promote the unity of the Christian churches in the Middle East and to help anchor the Christian population in the region, it ended with a condemnation of Israel and little overt criticism of Muslim governments.
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