WASHINGTON — Baptists
and other Christians in Baghdad say they are living in fear following an attack
on a Roman Catholic Church in the Iraqi capital that left more than 50
The massacre occurred on
October 31 when al-Qaida-aligned gunmen attacked worshipers from Our Lady of
Salvation Chaldean Catholic Church in central Baghdad leaving at least 58 dead,
the majority of them worshippers, including two priests, and another 75 wounded.
Tony Peck, Baptist World
Alliance (BWA) regional secretary for Europe and general secretary for the
European Baptist Federation (EBF), reports the pastor of the Baptist Church in
Baghdad informed him that the “Christian community is now very fearful for its
safety” and that “some of the Baptist believers are talking about moving away
from Baghdad to North Iraq, others to Jordan and Syria.”
Baptist churches in the
Middle East are affiliated with the EBF, one of six regional fellowships of the
Peck fears that “this very
understandable response would leave the Christian church in Iraq even weaker
than before.” It has been estimated that since the invasion of Iraq by the
United States and its allies in 2003, approximately half the Christian population
have fled the Middle Eastern country, leaving an estimated 550,000 believers.
Many of those who remain are increasingly harassed and often experience
News reports suggest that
part of the motivation for the attack was the plan by a pastor in Florida in
the United States to burn the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in September. The
pastor abandoned his plans, under pressure. “It shows again how Christians
in the West must be wise and considerate in the way they engage critically with
Islam,” Peck declared.
In the wake of the attack,
Baptists in Baghdad are considering changing the day of worship from Sunday to
Friday, the traditional day of worship for Muslims, and a practice already
adopted by Christians in several Muslim-majority countries.
“We deeply regret the
unjustifiable murder of Roman Catholic Christians during worship last Sunday in
Baghdad,” said BWA director of Freedom and Justice, Raimundo Barreto.
“We affirm our profound
solidarity with the Christian community in Iraq as they mourn those who lost
their lives. We assure our brothers and sisters in Iraq of the prayerful
support from the larger Christian family around the world,” Barreto stated. “As
followers of Jesus Christ we advocate for true and lasting peace in that
region. We call on Christians all over the world to diligently work to prevent
any escalation of violence, by not repaying evil with evil, but by overcoming
evil with good” (Romans 12:17, 21).
Peck asked the Baptist
pastor in Baghdad to assure believers in the city of the prayers of the
worldwide Baptist family.