All Christians in the Middle East are now “legitimate targets,” al Qaeda in Iraq announced Wednesday, as the group’s deadline for Egypt’s Coptic church to release alleged Muslim female prisoners expired.
An audio message released Monday gave the church 48 hours to disclose the status of Muslim women it said are imprisoned in Coptic churches in Egypt.
The message purportedly came from the Islamic State of Iraq, which claimed responsibility for an attack on a Baghdad church Sunday that killed 58 people and wounded 75. The umbrella group includes a number of Sunni extremist organizations and has ties to al Qaeda in Iraq.
The group said the women’s alleged plight was the reason it stormed the church.
Wednesday, the group released a new message saying, “The Ministry of War of Islamic State of Iraq declares that all the centers, organizations and bodies of Christian leaders and followers have become legitimate targets by the Mujahedeens, wherever our hands will reach them.”
Christians of the region are asking themselves if this is the answer to the Catholic Synod:
“The Synod of Bishops called on the Christians and Muslims to come together to make a dialogue, and to open bridges between each community,” the Iraqi-born, Michigan-based Syriac Catholic priest Fr. Safaa Habash recounted.
“But those people,” he said in reference to the terrorists, “they try to give a response to that Synod of Bishops … ” Fr. Safaa went on to describe the attackers as “brainwashed”– “mercenaries” with “no principles.” One of the suicide attackers, he had heard, was about twelve years old.
The expatriate priest was thousands of miles away when the Baghdad cathedral was attacked. But he spoke from his experience with the kind of men who carry out these attacks. He described how groups of Islamic militants “want to disturb the relationship between Muslims and Christians … They want to divide Iraq into different factions, and try to disturb everything. They try to delay the political process, and cause Christians to flee Iraq.”
It remained unclear, as of November 2, what particular motive had prompted the cathedral attack—whether it was simply a backlash against the synod, a sectarian show of brute force, or retaliation for the unusual grievances cited by an al Qaeda-linked Iraqi group this week. The group Islamic State of Iraq took responsibility for the devastating assault, claiming to avenge women who had allegedly converted to Islam and consequently been kidnapped by Christian monks in Egypt.
…Fr. Safaa said that his country’s present and immediate future looks bleak. He noted that democracy did not seem to be taking root, instead giving way to a sectarian civil war.
Yet from the perspective of faith, he remained hopeful, maintaining his belief that the Christians of Iraq can be witnesses for peace.
“Priests, religious centers, monasteries—they can teach. They can teach the language of peace, the language of love, the language of justice. And I think that their presence is important for the future of Iraq.”
“I would say that we have a hope—that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
As one commenter said: I would like to listen those words from Iraqi Muslim leaders….
Where are the condemnations and the uproar, the demonstrations and the debates on the MSM about this massacre?
Iraq: Gunmen take church-goers hostage after killing 2 at stock exchange.
Iraq: 10 Catholics killed, 30 wounded after security forces stormed Baghdad church (UPD).
Iraq: Pope Sends Message to Syriac Archbishop of Baghdad.