One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

News from Iraq today demonstrates why more than one million Christians have fled the country since the the US-led invasion in 2003. A court in Baghdad has convicted three people of masterminding the attack on a Catholic church in that city last October that killed 68 people. Gunmen murdered worshippers at Mass before blowing themselves up. It was the largest massacre of Christians in Iraq since the war began.

These convictions are surely a sign of progress. Yet this very morning a car bomb exploded outside a Catholic church in Kirkuk, wounding at least 16. The disaster could have been much worse: car bombs outside two other churches in the city failed to detonate. Sunni extremists have been targeting Iraqi Christians, whom they see as infidels and Western collaborators, since the fall of Saddam. The attacks this morning seem to be an expression of defiance by the extremists: you can convict us in court, but we’ll still drive out the Christians.

The Kirkuk bombings demonstrate that, notwithstanding hopeful signs like today’s convictions, the situation remains dire. The rule of law seems to be advancing, and that is surely a good thing. But the intimidation campaign against Iraq’s Christians — one of the oldest faith communities in the world — shows little sign of stopping. — MLM

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