FaithWorld

No Christmas festivities for some Iraqi Christians

iraq christmas (Photo: Refugee Iraqi Christians attend a pre-Christmas mass at Chaldean Catholic church in Amman December 22, 2010/Ali Jarekji)

Some church leaders in Iraq have told Christians not to celebrate Christmas except with prayer after lethal attacks and continuing threats by militants against the Iraqi Christian community.

“No Santa Claus, no celebrations, no gifts this year,” Archbishop Louis Sako, chairman of the Chaldean archbishops in Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya, said on Wednesday. “We don’t have the right to jeopardize others’ lives.”

In a new threat published on an Islamist website, the local affiliate of al Qaeda threatened more attacks against Iraqi Christians. Insurgent attacks have panicked Iraq’s minority Christian community. Thousands have fled to the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region or overseas.

In the worst attack, 52 people were killed when security forces stormed Our Lady of Salvation Catholic church in Baghdad after militants took hostages during Sunday mass on October 31. Iraqi authorities said they had arrested 12 suspected al Qaeda members in connection with the assault.

“We are still deeply wounded from what happened in Our Lady of Salvation church,” Sako said. “We saw innocent people brutally killed while praying to God, so how can we celebrate?”

Iraqi Christians flee to Kurdish areas or abroad – U.N.

iraq (Photo: An Iraqi Christian refugee lights candles at an Orthodox church in Amman on November 7, 2010 for victims of the attack on Our Lady of Salvation church of Baghdad on October 31/Ali Jarekji)

Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled their homes to semi-autonomous Kurdish areas and neighbouring countries since a Catholic church in Baghdad was attacked six weeks ago, the U.N. refugee agency has said.

Some 1,000 Christian families, roughly 6,000 people, have arrived in the northern Kurdish areas from Baghdad, Mosul and Nineveh, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. Several thousand have crossed into Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

Many spoke of receiving threats or leaving out of fear. Fifty-two hostages and police were killed when Iraqi forces tried to free more than 100 Catholics taken hostage during Sunday mass on October 31.

India says local Islamists bombed Hindu pilgrim city Varanasi

varanasi 1 (Photo: After the blast in Varanasi December 7, 2010/Stringer)

India said Wednesday a home-grown Islamist group with ties to Pakistani militants was behind a bomb attack in one of its holiest cities, Varanasi, and local media reported two people were questioned over the attack. Home Secretary Gopal Pillai said traces of explosives were found at the site of Tuesday evening’s blast in the northern city that killed a two-year old girl and injured 37 Hindu worshippers and foreign tourists.

Pillai said the crude bomb was set off by the Indian Mujahideen (IM), a local group India says has been trained by militants based in Pakistan, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The IM claimed responsibility for the attack in an email to local media, police said. That email was traced to a Mumbai suburb and two people were questioned over it, local media said.

“The main players of Indian Mujahideen are based in Pakistan and they are definitely running the game from there,” Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjeev Dayal told a press conference. Pillai has said it was “too premature” to say if individuals or groups operating from Pakistan were involved.

Q+A – Why are militants attacking Shi’ites, Pakistan now ?

lahore 1 (Photo: Men gather near dead bodies after bomb attack on Shi’tes in Lahore, September 1, 2010/Mohsin Raza)

Suspected Islamist militants exploded three bombs at a Shi’ite procession in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday, killing 33 people and piling pressure on the government already overwhelmed by floods.

Here are some questions and answers on implications of the attacks which came after a lull in violence during floods.

WHAT MILITANTS ARE UP TO?

WHY DO THE MILITANTS TARGET SHI’ITES?

HOW IS THE GOVERNMENT HANDLING THE PROBLEM?

Read the answers in a Q+A by Zeeshan Haider here.

lahore 2 (Photo: A woman weeps next to the body of a relative after bomb attack on Shi’ites in Lahore, September 1, 2010/Mohsin Raza)

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Muslim center dispute sparks New York rallies — article link, video, photo gallery

mosque rally 1 (Photo: Muslim center supporter at a New York rally, August 22, 2010/Jessica Rinaldi)

Supporters and opponents of a proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque near the World Trade Center site staged competing rallies in downtown Manhattan on Sunday, kept apart by police and barricades.

Hundreds of opponents chanted “No Mosque,” sang patriotic songs and waved photographs of violent attacks by Islamic extremists.  One sign read: “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all the terrorists were Muslim.”

Chechnya’s leader hails paintball attacks on women without headscarves

kadyrovThe Kremlin-backed head of Russia’s Muslim Chechnya region has praised assailants who targeted women with paintball pellets for going bareheaded, prompting outrage from rights activists.  Eyewitnesses have said men in camouflage, often worn by police and security forces in the volatile region, fired paintball guns from cars about a dozen times last month at women who were not wearing headscarves. (Photo: Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, dressed in the national costume,  in Grozny on April 25, 2010/Denis Balibouse)

“I don’t know (who they are), but when I find them I shall announce my gratitude,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in a weekend interview on the state-run regional television channel Grozny.  He called the victims of the paintball attacks “naked women” who had most likely been forewarned.  “Even if they were carried out with my permission, I wouldn’t be ashamed of it,” he said of the paint-pellet attacks.

The attacks highlighted tension over Kadyrov’s efforts to enforce Muslim-inspired rules that in some cases violate Russia’s constitution.  The Russian rights group Memorial, which has blamed the attacks on law enforcement officers, said in a statement on Thursday: “Kadyrov’s interview clearly demonstrates the restriction on women’s rights in Chechnya — he openly defends unlawful acts.”

Pakistani law fuels hatred of Ahmadis, prompts attacks: UN experts

ahmadiOfficial discrimination in Pakistan against the Ahmadi Muslim sect fuels hatred of the community and prompts violent attacks against them, according to three U.N. human rights investigators.

In a statement issued by the United Nations in Geneva following deadly bombings last Friday of two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, the three said the authorities had failed to head off the attacks despite many signs that they were coming. (Photo: Ahmadis bury attack victims in Chenab Nagar,  northwest of Lahore on May 29, 2010/stringer)

“Members of this (Ahmadi) religious community have faced continuous threats, discrimination and violent attacks in Pakistan,” said the experts, who included Pakistani human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir.

from India Insight:

India’s 26/11 – religion no bar

A year ago, after the three-day siege of Mumbai ended and people took to the streets with candles and banners, a group of young Muslim men, carrying a hand-written poster, walked quietly with the surging crowds.

Seeing them, people began to clap spontaneously, applauding their assertion that Islam was a religion of peace, and not terrorism.

Since then, people in Mumbai, which has witnessed some of the worst communal riots in the country in the past, have come together in their grief, crossing barriers erected by politicians in the name of religion.