Northern New York Newspapers
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Fri., Dec. 26
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Religious persecution

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Iraq's Christians are under assault. The United Nation's Human Rights Council estimates that more than half of the 1.4 million Christians in Iraq before the U.S. 2003 invasion have fled the country.

Christians have been part of Iraq since the religion's founding but have been targets of assassinations and bombings in the predominantly Muslim country over the past seven years.

One convent in Mosul has been attacked 20 times, according to a USA Today report. Some 5,000 Christians have fled the provincial capital in the latest wave of attacks that began in late 2009 and continued into early this year. At least a dozen Christians were killed.

Previous waves of violence have been directed against Christians, beginning with al-Qaida's bombing of churches in Baghdad and Mosul in 2004. It was followed by Shiite killings and bombings aimed at liquor stores, a business dominated by Christians.

"With each of these rounds of killing and intimidation, we lost thousands of Christians to Jordan, Syria, Europe and America," William Warda, a Christian human rights advocate in Baghdad, told USA Today. "We are now trapped in a battle between Kurds and Arabs for Mosul."

In response, the House passed a resolution this year calling on the U.S. government and United Nations to improve security at places of worship "particularly where members of vulnerable religious minority communities are known to be at risk."

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wants Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare Iraq a "county of particular concern" for the persecution of religious minorities. It asked the same thing during the Bush administration, but no action was taken then and none is expected now since the designation could lead to sanctions.

Ambassador Christopher Hill said the anti-Christian violence was ultimately a matter for Iraq to resolve.

However, the U.S. government should exert pressure on Baghdad to do more to protect Christians and other religious minorities.

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