“With the rise of Islamic fundamentalism since Saddam Hussein’s ouster in April, many Christians in Iraq say their situation has worsened, and some now fear meeting together because of the security threat.” This from WND.
“A prominent Christian judge was killed in Mosul, bombs were found at two Christian schools and many Christian students and families received threatening notes demanding conversion to Islam, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported.
“The number of Christians in Iraq, who comprise about 3 percent of the population, has dropped from nearly 2 million to about 800,000 since the end of the 1991 Gulf War.
“CBN said authorities defused a series of cluster bombs at two Christian schools one week after the Nov. 4 assassination of Judge Ismail Youssef, who was attacked outside his home in the northern city of Mosul.
“Students at the schools, one in Mosul and one in Baghdad, said they received notices warning they must convert to Islam or be killed, according to British-based Christian aid and monitoring group Barnabas Fund.
“An Iraqi Christian woman named Eman said a group of Muslim men approached her while returning home on a bus and ordered her to cover her head, CBN reported. ‘They told me that if I didn’t put on a veil, they would slaughter me,’ she said. ‘Can you imagine this? I am a Christian, and we don’t believe in wearing the veil.’
“Another Iraqi Christian, Ameer, said just days after the war began, his family’s Muslim landlord sent a group of men to the house and forced them to leave. ‘They threw our furniture and all our belongings out on the street,’ he said, according to CBN. ‘It was so embarrassing. Now I have no home and nowhere to go. My family is very poor.’
“An Iraqi Christian named Samir said while he greeted Saddam’s fall, like many others, his hopes have been dimmed because of fears a worse regime could take over, run by fundamentalists. Many fear an Iranian-type of government, run by radical clerics, he said.
“The Barnabas Fund said Christians all over Iraq have received a notice from Al-Badr, the militia of the main Shia group, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which has a representative on the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council established by the U.N.-led coalition.
“The notice reads:
“‘In the name of God: the Merciful, the Compassionate.
“‘Do not adorn yourselves as ignorant women did before the time of Islam (Sura 33.33).
“‘The leadership of the Islamic Badr Brigade hopes that the head of this noble family will stand with the Muslim brethren and follow basic Muslim rules. The veil should be worn and the honorable teachings of Islam that have come to us from ages past must be adhered to. We are Iraqis and Muslims; we will not tolerate sin. If this announcement is not complied with, we shall either inflict some unbearable punishment, kill offenders, kidnap them or destroy them in their homes with fire or by bombing.
“‘This order applies to the daughters of this family, their mother and the little girls.
“‘The Islamic Badr Brigade, Najaf’
“CBN said Shiite Muslims are becoming more aggressive and vocal in the [Chaldean] Christian community led by Bishop Ishlemon Warduni. Not long after the war began, followers of the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini converted a Baath Party building next to his church into a mosque and mounted several loudspeakers in its direction. ‘This is very unsettling,’ Warduni told CBN. ‘During our church services, we can hear the Muslim call to prayer and it is very loud. It is frightening a lot of the Christians. Many are afraid to even come to the church. Attendance is very low.’
“A church member added, ‘It is very difficult to come to church and to see this mosque here. They are in our face. Why are they blaring their Muslim prayers right in front of our church and during our services? They are trying to intimidate us Christians.’
“Shiites, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq’s more than 22 million people, are expected to dominate the interim government developing under the guidance of the U.S.-led coalition, and some observers warn Iraq is on its way to becoming an Islamic state. CBN notes a close adviser to Paul Bremer, the American administrator in Baghdad, said in a recent interview Iraq is likely to embrace some form of Islamic law, or Sharia. ‘The end constitutional product is very likely to make many people in the U.S. government unhappy,’ he said. ‘It’s not going to look the way people imagined it looking. Any democratically elected Iraqi government is unlikely to be secular and unlikely to be pro-Israel. And frankly, moderately unlikely to be pro-American.’
“Sheik Hadi Hussein Al-Ghazragi, leader of a prominent Shiite group gathering nationwide support, has insisted Islamic law ‘must be the foundation of this country and constitution.’
“‘All the citizens, including Christians, Jews and others who belong to different religions, must follow the strict rules of Islam,’ he stated.
“Under Saddam, Christians in Iraq were allowed to worship but not evangelize publicly. During this interim period, they have a window of opportunity to ‘share the message of Christ to all people,’ an Iraqi pastor named Hartinian told CBN, which notes some Christians are conducting street services and versions of the Arabic Bible are in high demand. ‘My prayer is that the church will expand the walls of the church. The church is not only inside the walls of this church, but is also outside the walls,’ Hartinian said. ‘We know that sharing this message is incredibly difficult, but this is what we believe in, and as long as we have Christ with us, this is the day of salvation. This is the day the God is going to touch the people of Iraq.'”