One year after a deadly attack on a Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, a local priest says the next five or six years will be “crucial” to determine whether Iraqi Christians will stay in the country.
“Living in Iraq means living in fear. There’s no feeling safe and during the last two or three weeks the situation has got worse, because of tensions among political parties,” Father Amir Jaje, superior of the Dominican Order in Baghdad told Aid to the Church in Need during his visit to Germany.
When a country is shaken by political tensions, he added, “minorities suffer the worst consequences.”
Police stationed outside churches have failed to reassure many Iraqi Christians who believe extremists have infiltrated church congregations.
Christians were especially anxious near the first anniversary of the Oct. 31, 2010 attacks on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation. During the attacks last year, 58 people died, including Fr. Jaje’s cousin Fr. Wasim Sabieh.
Fr. Jaje said that those attending the anniversary Mass were scared “because every time there’s political tension, the extremists exploit it to cause violence and spread their message.”
Despite Iraqi Christians’ fears—which have caused many to leave the country in recent months—the community's faith has been strong and they have not fallen into despair, ACN News reported.
“Our hope is like a small candle still burning in a dark tunnel. And I believe that we will not lose this hope,” Fr. Jaje said.
The Dominican Order in Baghdad is currently working with the local Muslim community to establish a new university where members of both faiths can study together.