“If they stay they will be finished one by one”
~Archbishop Athanasios Dawood
7 November 2010
A senior Iraqi Christian has called on believers to quit the country, after gunmen targeted a church in Baghdad.
Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, who is based in the UK, made his appeal during a service at the Syrian Orthodox Church in London.
The archbishop said Christians had been without protection since the US-led invasion in 2003.
At least 52 people died as security forces stormed a Catholic church in Baghdad to free dozens of hostages.
A number of gunmen entered Our Lady of Salvation in the city’s Karrada district during Mass on Sunday 31 October, sparking an hours-long stand-off.
The militants made contact with the authorities by mobile phone, demanding the release of al-Qaeda prisoners and also of a number of Muslim women they insisted were being held prisoner by the Coptic Church in Egypt.
After negotiations failed, Iraqi security forces stormed the building, before the gunmen reportedly threw grenades and detonated their suicide vests.
On Sunday, Archbishop Dawood advised all Christians to leave Iraq now al-Qaeda had warned of more attacks there.
Before the US-led invasion of Iraq, there were nearly one million Christians there enjoying some protection from Saddam Hussein.
Since 2003, that number has dropped to about 300,000. Most of those that fled are now living in neighbouring countries.
About 10,000 Iraqi Christians now live in the UK. Their leader is Archbishop Athanasios Dawood and he presides over the Syrian Orthodox Church in west London.
Archbishop Dawood is one of many in his congregation who have lost several members of their family back in Iraq as al-Qaeda and other insurgents target Christians.
The archbishop now says it is no longer safe for Christians to stay in Iraq because they are easy targets.
They receive no protection from the Baghdad government and unlike other groups, they have no militias of their own.
The article, with video, continues at BBC News.
H/T Weasel Zippers