At least four Iraqi churches in Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk fell victim to a synchronized series of bombings Sunday that resulted in the deaths of at least three Iraqis and the wounding of nine, according to authorities.
The four explosions, which struck between the times of 4:10 and 4:30 in the afternoon, are the first reported bombings specifically targeting churches in Iraq since last month’s national elections. Meanwhile, concerns over the decreasing Christian presence in the violence-stricken nation remain.
According to Col. Birhan Taha, three civilians were killed and one wounded in an attack on the Church of the Virgin in Kirkuk at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. The explosion came 15 minutes after another car bomb exploded outside an Orthodox church, wounding six civilians.
Both bombs were detonated by remote control, Taha told The Associated Press.
Five minutes before the first explosion in Kirkuk, a car bomb detonated at 4:10 p.m. outside St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in the eastern Baghdad suburb of Sina'a, wounding two people, Maj. Qusai Ibrahim reported to AP.
About 20 minutes later – around the same time as the second explosion in Kirkuk – another vehicle exploded outside an Anglican church in eastern Baghdad's Nidhal area. According to Lt. Ali Mitaab, no casualties were reported.
The recent attacks are nothing new for Iraq’s remaining Christians and for concerned believers monitoring the situation of the Iraqi Church.
Last year, ahead of the Jan. 30 voting to elect the 275-member assembly that would appoint a government and draft a constitution, news agencies and persecution watchdogs highlighted the ongoing exodus of Iraq’s Christian minority primarily to Jordan and Syria as a result of attacks and threats. The numbers of beleaguered Iraqi Christians fleeing their country had reportedly increased following the wave of church bombings began in August 2004.
According to a recent report by Voice of America, the Christian population has still been declining "noticeably" in most Middle Eastern countries since the 20th century, including Iraq.
While the human rights situation has improved in Iraq, Christian persecution experts such as Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl A. Moeller have expressed concerns over the decreasing Christian presence in Iraq and its surrounding countries.
Among the estimated 26 million people in the country, Shi'a Muslims form about 60-65 percent; Sunni Muslims, 32-37 percent; and Christian or other, 3 percent. Christians have continually decreased in number and now are fewer than one million in Iraq.
Christian Today Correspondent