Islamic Pressure Increases on Christian Communities

BAGHDAD, Iraq, APRIL 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Christian churches in Baghdad have been forced to remove crosses as threats from Islamic extremists cause pressure to mount.

Wednesday was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since the start of U.S. security operations. Nearly 200 people were killed in a string of attacks in Iraq's capital. Meanwhile AsiaNews reported new threats to Christians.

The churches in the Dora region, a Christian quarter of Baghdad, have received threats from an unknown Islamic group, which warned: "Get rid of the cross or we will burn your churches."

Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad told AsiaNews: "In the last two months many churches have been forced to remove the crosses from their domes.

"In the case of the Church of St. George, in Assira, Muslim extremists took the situation into their own hands: They climbed onto the roof and ripped down the cross."

Bishop Warduni added that "in the Chaldean Church of St. John, in Dora, which has been without a pastor for months, the parishioners themselves decided to move the cross to a safer place following repeated threats."

The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul has received the same threats but so far has withstood the intimidation.

Ultimatum

AsiaNews reported that the same unknown Islamic group active in Dora seems to have delivered an ultimatum to the Christian community there: Convert to Islam or die.

Reports say that they have delivered a fatwa forbidding Christians to wear crosses or make any religious gesture, and permitting the confiscation of goods and properties belonging to Christian families forced to flee their homes.

Baghdad's Christian community's worries have been increased by the U.S. military's decision to forcibly occupy the facilities of Babel College, which belongs to the Chaldean Church. The college, the only faculty of theology in the country, houses one of the most ancient religious libraries in the region, full of priceless manuscripts, AsiaNews reported.

Because of the increased insecurity in the city and continual abductions of religious, the faculty had transferred to Ankawa, in Kurdistan, last January, leaving the building empty.

The U.S. military is now using the college facilities as an observation outpost. Apparently, however, an agreement has been made to abandon the structure in coming weeks.

"The Iraqi people are tired," said Bishop Warduni. "We have been suffering for far too long and the situation has become unsustainable. We ask God to give us peace. The Christians, just like the Muslims, want to rebuild Iraq. We don’t want to be forced to flee, because this is where we were born, this is where we have lived our lives."

Code: ZE07041912

Date: 2007-04-19


Teachings of Christ

'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:53-54 ESV)

Joachiam and Anna Rejoice

Today the bonds of childlessness are loosed, * for God has heard Joachim and Anna * and He promises manifestly that they, against all hope, would give birth to the Maiden of God * from whom the Uncircumscribed One Himself would be born, becoming man, * and he commanded the Angels to cry out to her: * “Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the whole world celebrates * the conception of Anne which was brought about by God, * for she gave birth to the one who, beyond understanding, * gave birth to the Word. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

Holy Forefathers

Through faith, O Christ, you justified the Forefathers, * betrothing through them in advance the Church of the gentiles. * The Saints exult in glory, * for from their seed came forth a glorious fruit: * she who gave birth to You without seed. * Through their prayers, O Christ God, have mercy on us. (Troparion, Tone 2)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You did not honor a hand-depicted image, O thrice-blessed ones, * but defended by the undepicted Being you were glorified in a trial by fire. * And, standing in the midst of unbearable flame, you called upon God: * “Hasten, O Compassionate One, and speed to our help, * for You are merciful and You can do whatever you will.” (Kontakion, Tone 6)

(Second Sunday Before Christmas)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live." (Proverbs 7:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Let not us who would be Christians expect anything else than to be crucified....for to be Christian is to be crucified in this time and in any time since Christ came for the first time. His life is the example and warning to us all. We must be crucified personally,mystically; for trough crucifixion is the only path to resurrection, if we would rise with Christ, we must be humbled with him even to the ultimate humiliation, being devoured and spit forth by the uncomprehending world.... We must be crucified outwardly in the eyes of the world, for Christ's kingdom is not of this world and world cannot bear it, even a single representative, even for the single moment.

Fr Seraphim Rose