LOS ANGELES (Combined Sources)–In a letter of condolences addressed to Pope Benedict XVIth and the Syriac Catholic Archbishop in Baghdad, Catholicos Aram I condemned the blast and hostage taking that occurred last Sunday at the Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad, and expressed his sorrow for the loss of more than 50 innocent lives.
Later, referring to the recent Vatican Middle East Synod he said: “ Christian unity and witness is an urgent priority today. Christianity has been an integral part of the Middle East, the history and culture of the region. It has existed with Islam in spite of all difficulties. Christianity will continue to dialogue and cooperate with Islam in order to build peace in the region.”
Thousands of Assyrian-American protesters, dressed in black, rallied in Los Angeles, Detroit, Phoenix, Chicago and other cities across the US to condemn the killings and call on the United States to provide better security for Christians in Iraq.
One demonstrator in Chicago held aloft a placard that read, “Save Iraq’s Most Vulnerable Population.” Others held of graphic photographs from inside Iraqi churches after they’d been attacked. An organizer, Natasha Shino, said Christians are being forced to flee their homeland. The Chicagoan says Iraqi Christians believe the U.S. can do more to protect them.
According to the Metro Detroit, Andre Anton, one of the Chicago rally organizers, said that there will be another rally in Washington, DC in order to get the attention of U.S. lawmakers.
In Arizon, more than 400 people gathered in central Phoenix Monday afternoon to protest the killings. They lined Washington Street outside of Phoenix City Hall, holding signs with slogans such as “Stop the killing now!” Several posters had pictures of the Baghdad church after the attack, including images of a blood-spattered altar.
From California to Australia, thousands from all walks of life gathered Monday to march in solidarity as a form of protest against the massacre. The rallies, though an immediate response to the slaughter, also echo a larger cry against the many other attacks endured by this Christian minority, which has been relentlessly persecuted over the years.
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, extremist attacks against the Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean population have increased. These indigenous Iraqi Christians are in fear of their own livelihood and are being forced out of their homeland in order to seek asylum. Rally protesters are not only marching to spread awareness of the past and current persecutions but also as a call for action to help protect and save the Iraqi Christian natives from further bloodshed and even extinction.
For more information on how to help stop the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Christians in Iraq, people can visit the following websites: Iraqi Christian Relief, Assyrian American National Coalition, and the Assyrian Aid Society of America.