Iraqi officials say bombings targeting Christians in southern Baghdad have killed at least 38 people on Christmas day.
Pope Francis appealed on Thursday for Christians who suffer violence, discrimination and all way of injustice because of their faithfulness to Christ and His Gospel. The Pope’s call for prayerful solidarity with persecuted faithful came on the Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr, and a day after bomb attacks on a Catholic church and a Christian neighbourhood market in Baghdad, Iraq, Vatican Radio informs.
“We are close to those brothers and sisters who, like St. Stephen, are unjustly accused and subjected to violence of various kinds,” said Pope Francis. He went on to say, “This happens especially where religious freedom is still not guaranteed or not fully realized.”
The Holy Father explained that, even in countries that have protections for freedom and human rights “on paper,” believers in general, “and especially Christians, encounter abridgments of their liberty and discrimination.”
Pope Francis departed from his prepared remarks to note that there are indeed a great many Christians who suffer in these ways – more even than in the time of the first Christians – and paused to lead the faithful in praying the Hail Mary! on their behalf. He went on to say that Christians ought not be surprised by such mistreatment, since Jesus said such things would happen and that they offer good occasion for profound witness. “Nevertheless, Injustice in the civil sphere must be denounced and eliminated,” he said according to Vatican Radio.
On december 23 another five journalists were killed in northern Iraq in a targeted attack against a TV station
The United Nations says more than 8,000 people have been killed in Iraq this year, in what has been the worst violence to hit the country since 2008.
According to the New York Times, the US is sending to the Iraqi government weapons to help them combat insurgency backed by al Qaeda: missiles and low tech surveillance drones. It is and answer to an appeal for help by the Iraqi prime minister Nuri al Maliki to president Obama.