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Anglican Canon: With Focus on Gaza, Islamists Can Kill at Will in Iraq

01 Aug 2014 – By Dale Gavlak

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — With the world’s attention focused on Gaza’s increasingly desperate situation, some in Iraq feel that brutal Islamist militants can do whatever they want and literally get away with murder.

Serving in some of the worst violence in Iraq over the past decade, the Rev. Andrew White, an Anglican canon at St. George’s Church in Baghdad, said more than 1,500 people killed in late July in the violence in Iraq perpetrated by Islamic State extremists.

“The Islamic State simply said we can do anything now the world is just looking at Gaza,” Rev. White wrote of the precarious conditions faced by Iraq’s historic Christian community. In a newsletter dated 30 July and made available to Catholic News Service, he said the radical group now controls huge swaths of eastern Syria and northern and central Iraq.

“In reality that is true. Iraq seems like old news, yet things just get worse and worse here,” said Rev. White, who also directs the British-based charity, Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

“It is as if hell has broken out here and nobody cares, that is, apart from you, our supporters, who never leave us and keep supporting us in every way,” he said.

“The situation is so serious and it is very easy to feel forgotten,” he said.

Iraq was thrown back into crisis in mid-June after thousands of armed members of the Islamic State moved from Syria through much of northern Iraq, killing both Muslims and Christians.

On 29 June, the Islamist militants proclaimed a “caliphate,” an Islamic state led by a religious leader, across the territories they had captured, including the city of Mosul, the ancient Christian heartland in Iraq.

In late July, the Islamic State released a new video depicting the group carrying out mass executions and warning Iraqi soldiers and others who dare to resist that they will be rounded up and killed.

Rev. White and his congregation, in addition to numerous Catholic institutions, continue to provide support to tens of thousands of Christians forced to flee the northern Iraqi cities of Mosul and Ninevah. The Islamic State extremists told the Christians they had three options: Convert, pay an Islamic tax or leave.

“Even here in Baghdad, people are terrified of what is happening around us,” Rev. White said, adding that many parishioners have left or are planning to leave Iraq’s beleaguered capital.

“The Islamic State has established their hidden cells within Baghdad, and people are seriously under threat even though they are not in the areas controlled by the Islamic State,” he added. “The number of kidnappings here has soared, and people simply do not know what is going to happen next.”

Archbishop Maroun Lahham, patriarchal vicar for Jordan in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, pleaded for prayers for Iraq, Gaza, Syria and Libya during a special Mass in the Jordanian capital, Amman, on 30 July.

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Tags: Iraq Iraqi Christians Violence against Christians Baghdad