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Christmas for Iraqi Christians: Three bombs and a Fatal Shooting

6 January 2004

The Christmas Season for the beleaguered Iraqi Christian community was punctuated by three bombs, two of them in places of worship, and a fatal shooting.

Christians in Baghdad narrowly escaped carnage as a bomb went off in their church at Christmas. The congregation had just celebrated the birth of their Lord with a traditional service when the bomb exploded. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the blast shattered church windows and caused other damage. A week later as the New Year was ushered in, another bomb was discovered at St. George's monastery in Mosul. Again, in the face of potential tragedy, the Christian community had cause to be thankful as it was defused before it detonated. Restaurant goers celebrating New Year's Eve in Baghdad were less fortunate. Five people were killed by a car bomb in a predominantly Christian area; it is not certain that this attack was specifically anti-Christian.

Christians in Basra are also grieving the loss of one of their number. Bashir Toma Elias was shot in cold blood in the middle of a market place on Christmas Eve. Elias was doing last minute Christmas shopping before going home to celebrate with his wife and five children. He was killed with a single shot aimed directly at his head. Furthermore journalists from The Times covering this story were warned that they too would be killed if they continued to talk to "those Christians". The Christian community of around 100,000 in Basra fear that Shi'a militia groups, with names like "God's Vengeance", will not rest until all Christians have either left Basra (2000 families have already done so since the end of the war) or converted to Islam.


Despite one bomb exploding in Poso, Central Sulawesi, Christians in Indonesia are grateful that a feared campaign of bombing did not materialise. However there were incidences of tragic loss of life in other areas. In Pakistan a Christian minister was shot dead. In Egypt the army attacked a Christian centre that cares for mentally and physically disabled children; one employee was killed. In the predominantly Muslim southern part of the Philippines two bombs were discovered outside a cathedral and 10 were killed when another bomb exploded, apparently aimed at a local Christian mayor.