Catholics Killed at Mass in Iraq: Extremist Muslims invade Church, Murder Priest
We urge the global readers of Catholic Online to pray for the dead, pray for their families, pray for the wounded and pray for - and stand in solidarity with - our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq.
One report concerning the state of the Church after the security forces stormed in to attempt to rescue the Christians is particularly horrifying. It came from a police officer, "It's a horrible scene. More than 50 people were killed. The suicide vests were filled with ball bearings to kill as many people as possible. You can see human flesh everywhere. Flesh was stuck to the top roof of the hall. Many people went to the hospitals without legs and hands." It is time for an international outcry of Catholics and other Christians. We must stand with our Christian brothers and sisters.
Our Lady of Salvation Church before it was besieged by Muslim Extremists
BAGHDAD, Iraq (Catholic Online) - They gathered in Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church for an evening Mass. They are members of an increasingly besieged and forgotten minority in Iraq, Catholic Christians. Their herosm and love for the Lord has inspired them to continue to practice the ancient faith in the midst of what is a steadily deteriorating situation for them in this land they have called home for centuries.
Our Lady of Salvation Church is no stranger to violence. Churches have been bombed before in Iraq, including Our Lady of Salvation. The Christian faithful have had to contend with an increasingly hostile culture. However, never before have they experienced the horror of what happened this past Sunday when terrorists invaded a Church as the Holy Mass was set to begin, killed the priest and held the worshippers hostage for four hours. It ended with at least 52 dead, others injured, and our brothers and sisters in Iraq devastated.
Reports confirm that 120 of the faithful had gathered to hear the Gospel proclaimed, participate in the Liturgy, and receive the Holy Eucharist. There were women, men and children. One eyewitness who had been inside the Church when the terrorists entered the sanctuary told European news sources that the armed terrorists "came into the prayer hall and immediately killed the priest". Out of fear the witness would not identify himself. However, he also attested to the brutality of the terrorists. He indicated that they beat the worshippers and then herded them into an inner hall.
Late Sunday evening a statement was posted on a militant site claiming responsibility for the evil attack. The group called itself the "Islamic State of Iraq". If this is the responsible group, sources affirm that it is linked to Al-Qaida in Iraq. The writers of the posting threatened to "Exterminate Iraqi Christians" if two Muslim women were not freed. The women referenced by the extremists are the subject of two very different claims.
Muslim Extremists claim the two women were Muslim converts. Christians maintain they were Christians kidnapped by Muslims. Reports indicate that the women in question have already been found by the police. They have denied any conversion to Islam and are in hiding. However, the Muslim militants demand the release of the women and declared in the message "We direct our speech to the Vatican and say that as you met with Christians of the Mideast a few days ago to support them and back them, now you have to pressure them to release our sisters, otherwise death will reach you all."
An Iraqi man whose wife was inside the Church and escaped harm told reporters he believed this act of terror was just the beginning of a new wave of violence against Christians in Iraq, "I expect the coming attacks will be worse in the future since the government is doing nothing to protect us. We are peaceful people and never harmed any of our fellow countrymen, so we do not understand the reasons behind such evil attacks.Many Christians now believe that they do not have any hope in Iraq and the best thing to survive is to seek another country to live in."
The Muslim extremists held the 120 Christians in their Church for four hours. The Church was finally stormed by Iraqi security forces. When the entire horrid affair was over, at least 52 people were dead and many others severely wounded. Once again, as can be expected, there are conflicting reports concerning just how the deaths occurred, whether at the hands of the terrorists, or in the rescue operation.
The Iraqi minister of defense, Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi, told sources that the hostages were killed or wounded by the Muslim terrorists who had set off suicide vests in the sanctuary. He said "This was a successful operation with a minimum of casualties, and killing all the terrorists." Another government official indicated the police arrested eight of the terrorists and confirmed they were associated with the "Islamic State of Iraq" affiliated with a terrorist group which calls itself "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia".
The Iraqi force who attempted to rescue the Christians from the Muslim terrorists is an anti-terrorist unit referred to as "The Golden Force". Reports indicate that after four hours they "swarmed the church by helicopter and sent in grenades and smoke grenades, but were rebuffed by the terrorists.." So, they then stormed the Church from the ground.
One report concerning the state of the Church after the security forces stormed in to attempt to rescue the Christians is particularly horrifying. It came from a police officer, "It's a horrible scene. More than 50 people were killed. The suicide vests were filled with ball bearings to kill as many people as possible. You can see human flesh everywhere. Flesh was stuck to the top roof of the hall. Many people went to the hospitals without legs and hands."
We urge the global readers of Catholic Online to pray for the dead, pray for their families, pray for the wounded and pray for - and stand in solidarity with - our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq. It is time for an international outcry.