IRAQ (ACN News):
A parish priest in Kirkuk was fortunate to escape injury when a
church in the Iraqi city was bombed on August 15.
This was the third church bombing in Kirkuk
within less than two weeks. Nobody was hurt in the explosion.
Parish priest Fr Gewargis Elias was lucky to
escape with his life when security staff spotted a vehicle
carrying suspicious devices and ordered him out of St Ephrem's
Syrian Orthodox Church just minutes before the blast.
Reporting the incident, Chaldean Archbishop Louis
Sako of Kirkuk told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need:
"Today they attacked the church. Who knows if tomorrow they will
attack the clergy or the people?"
The archbishop was speaking after St Ephrem's
became the third church in Kirkuk to be attacked this month.
Two weeks earlier, again early in the morning,
car bombs exploded at Holy Family Syrian Catholic Church and the
nearby Evangelical church.
At least 13 people in homes close to Holy Family
Church were injured - mostly slightly.
Chaldean Archbishop Sako said the August 15
bombing in the city centre was far bigger, leaving a huge hole
in the main wall, smashing pews and other church fittings.
The archbishop himself was woken by the blast
which went off less than 1km from Archbishop's House where
windows were broken.
Returning from a visit to St Ephrem's Church, Archbishop Sako
said evidence showed the attack had been carefully planned.
"I saw many people in the church when I was
there. They were so very tired and shocked," he said.
"They were asking: 'Why our church? What is the
archbishop said nobody had claimed responsibility for the
"There is no
justification for attacks like this. We Christians have no part
to play in politics. We are not causing people any problems,"
Archbishop Sako said.
"This is only happening because we are Christians. Maybe the
people responsible want to empty the city of Christians.
"Please pray for us. Pray for peace and stability. We are
Archbishop Sako said that since the attacks two weeks earlier,
five Christian families had left.
He estimated that over the past 30 years
thousands of Christians in Kirkuk had left the city.
"This exodus of Christians is going on all the
time. It is a big loss for those Christians who want to continue
here. How long can they can resist the pressure to leave?" he
said at a meeting today the local governor promised him the
Government would provide guards for churches and funding for
Sako said such measures offered little reassurance long term.
"The Government will provide guards and repairs
but after that we are not sure if there will be another
explosion," he said.
"Our concerns are not a priority for the Government.
What can we do? How can we plan for the future?"
The Government's pledge to boost security comes
after Syrian Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Kirkuk
called on politicians to guarantee better protection, making his
comments in a recent ACN interview.
Archbishop Sako went on to describe scaling back
celebrations for the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady to
archbishop, who is a Chaldean prelate, said relations were good
with the Syrian Orthodox and other churches and added that they
would work together.
"All the Christians, all the churches are open to each other. We
have an ecumenism which is really alive and we are supporting
one another as much as we can," he said.