Latest news > From Mosul to Berlin: Christmas under siege

From Mosul to Berlin: Christmas under siege

22 December 2016

Father Emanuel Youkhana, leader of the Assyrian Christians in Mosul, has said that for the third Christmas in a row the church bells will not ring as Islamic State (IS) snipers and suicide bombers bitterly contest the Iraqi advance into the city centre. There is no food or water. In recent weeks some 60,000 civilians have fled the rubble-littered front lines, escaping the IS terror backlash.

In Cairo, on 11 December an IS suicide bomber killed 27 Coptic Christians, mainly women and children, and wounded over 60 in an explosion in St Peter and St Paul’s Church. Ten-year-old Egyptian girl Maggie Moemen, in a coma with shrapnel in her brain and lungs, became the 27th victim when she succumbed to her wounds on Tuesday (20 December). Several women and children are still on the critical list, with the likelihood of further deaths.

Christian widows of war in Aleppo put on a Christmas show, and pose with their children on stage.
Christian widows of war in Aleppo put on a Christmas show, and pose with their children on stage.

That evening, in Azizieh Square, Aleppo, as Christians were celebrating the first Christmas-tree-lighting in four years, an explosion (possibly a mortar bomb) rocked the square, barely metres from the crowd. No one was injured.

As Christians across the globe prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, forces of evil in the guise of Islamist terrorists are preparing their campaign of murder and hate. Waves of arrests across Europe and thwarted terror attacks have simply highlighted the scale of the contagion.

In France, security police netted jihadist cells in Strasbourg and Marseilles that were planning December attacks against Disneyland Paris and the Christmas Market on the Champs-Élysées, Paris.

On 16 December, German media reported that “a 12-year-old boy in the western city of Ludwigshafem … had first tried to target a Christmas market at the end of November, before placing a backpack with explosives near a high-rise building [housing] the city hall and a shopping centre.” Now in police custody, the radicalised youth had been “incited and instructed” by IS.

In Berlin, on Monday evening (19 December), a lorry driven by an IS terrorist slammed into a Christmas market popular with tourists and locals outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, killing at least 12 and wounding 48, half of whom are still in hospital. Both IS and al-Qaeda have urged followers to use trucks to attack crowds, as in the IS attack in Nice, France, that killed 86 Bastille Day revellers this July.

On 8 December, British intelligence (MI6) chief, Alex Younger, warned that the “murderously efficient” IS is plotting deadly terror attacks against the UK out of Syria [and Libya], saying, “The scale of the threat is unprecedented … the highly organised external attack planning structure within Daesh [IS], even as they face military threat, is plotting ways to project violence against the UK and our allies.”

The message is clear: IS aims to globalise the conflict, to leave its brutal imprint on Christianity, where success will be measured in blood and by the body count of women and children. Now is the time for vigilance, for faith: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)