Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The Church Bombings in Iraq

I didn't much like the lack of detail in the church bombing news reports, so here's what I've dug up. The most helpful articles were from Channel News Asia, Arabic News, Middle East Online, Al Bawaba, and Al-Jazeera. Then Christianity Today came out with exactly the synthesis article I'd been trying to write. But my post is shorter, at least.

Pictures of the aftermath. (May be disturbing. In fact, they should be!)

All the attacks took place at about the same time, during or just after evening Mass on Sunday. The clear intent was to kill as many Christians of all denominations as possible, but with a special emphasis on Catholics. However, many Muslims were also hurt in the attacks, and many other Muslims aided in rescue efforts and have condemned the bombers in the strongest terms.

The first carbomb exploded at Our Lady of the Flowers, the Armenian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad, in the "upmarket" al-Karradah or Karada neighborhood. I haven't been able to learn the name of the parish. They were just fifteen minutes into Mass. Parishioners ran out, only to see another explosion.

The second carbomb hit Seydeta al-Khalas (Our Lady of Salvation/Deliverance), a Syriac Catholic church about 200 yards away. Brother Louis, a deacon of that parish, was quoted in news stories, as was Bishop Raphael Kutami.

From the New York Times:

In the Karada neighborhood in central Baghdad, worshipers had gathered for Mass at the Armenian church, when, one witness said, a Volkswagen Passat pulled up and exploded. The engine flew 200 feet and landed in the street. Flames raced to the sky in front of the church.

Minutes later, a few blocks away, a second explosion erupted in front of the Syrian Catholic church, sending people running, engulfed in smoke.

Safaa Michael, who was at the service, heard the first explosion. When the second blast came, "all the glass fell down over our heads." Blood stained his temple.

The church went suddenly dark. The explosion had cut the electricity.

Zaid Gazee Al-Janabi, 30, a security guard and a Muslim who lives down the street, watched the bomb blast off the roof of a house next to the church. He pulled five bodies, including those of two children, from the ground floor. They were Muslims. They were his friends.

Seydeta al-Khalas

Iraqi nun outside church

The third carbomb struck the complex of the Chaldean Church of the Disciples Mar Putros and Mar Polos (St Peter and St Paul), an ancient monastery, and St Peter's Seminary, in the al-Doura or al-Dura neighborhood of southern Baghdad. Six were killed. St Peter's is the only Chaldean Catholic seminary in the world.

From the New York Times:

Faris Talis, a Muslim, said he was in his tire repair store on Sunday evening when the first car bomb exploded on the street, spattering bits of glass and metal. He said he looked up to see a man, who he believed was involved in the attack, run into the seminary's parking lot. Then the second blast went off in the seminary compound. He ran inside to help what he said were scores of wounded and dead.

"I am a Muslim and I was evacuating them," he said. "I feel terrible about this. Whatever did this is a criminal. He doesn't have any mercy in his heart."

In the seminary parking lot, about a dozen cars sat scorched and smoking inside the front wall, at least one tipped on its side. Glass, ash and car parts were strewn around the lot, about 50 yards from the main building. Heat radiated off the blackened metal, as several men carried a blanket to one of the cars, apparently to retrieve the body of someone who had been trapped inside.

The parking lot.

Boy next to cross on gate

Friends from different faiths

Iraqi priest and nun survey the damage.

More Iraqi nuns and yet another.

Another Iraqi priest and Tears

The fourth carbomb hit Mar Elias (St. Elijah of Heyra) Chaldean Church, in Hay al-Amin in New Baghdad, a suburb east of Baghdad. It exploded just as parishioners were leaving Mass, so casualties were also high here. A Shiite mosque adjacent was holding a funeral service when the bomb went off, damaging their building as well.

New Baghdad

The fifth attack came against Mar Polis (St. Paul) Catholic Church in Mosul, in the Mohandessin neighborhood. This parish got two carbombs and an additional attack with rocket-propelled grenades.

Relatives mourn one of the victims.

Another device, full of mortar rounds, was found at St. John the Baptist Church (not Catholic) in the al-Karradah neighborhood in Baghdad. By the mercy of God, this one did not go off, but was found and defused. Also, another carbomb was detonated in a Christian neighborhood in Kirkuk, but incredibly, there were no deaths or even casualties.

Damage to a graveyard

Someone has to clean up. Love, grief, and faith.

The Iraqi National Guard prevents further bombings.

Iraqi opinions about the bombings, via Fayrouz.

May the Iraqi people always stand together.

Here's a brief rundown on the Eastern Catholic Churches involved:

Armenian Catholic and dioceses

Chaldean Catholic and dioceses

Syrian Catholic and dioceses

Here's a general page on the Chaldean Church and other Christians in Iraq. This Chicago page talks about Assyrian/Chaldean heritage and customs. It reveals that Assyrian Martyrs Day is August 7th, and commemmorates both a 1933 massacre in Simele, Iraq, and all innocent Chaldean/Assyrian victims of such actions.

(Btw, "Our Lady of the Flowers" probably refers to Mary's roses, of which the Armenians are fond. However, the Duomo in Florence (Fiorenze) is actually named "Santa Maria del Fiore", referring both to Mary's lily and the one on Florence's heraldic one. I'm not clear about which St. Elias/Elijah is being commemmorated.)


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