Iraqi Church Bombings Linked to Cartoon Protests

|TOP|A spate of church bombings in Iraq have been linked to the protests that have taken place across Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia in response to the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad published in a number of European newspapers.

At least three people were killed and more than a dozen injured in three separate bombings outside at least four churches in Iraq which observers suspect were timed to detonate during worship services. The bombings follow the beating of Christian students on Sunday, reports Crosswalk.

The Barnabus Fund, which monitors Christians living in the Muslim world, said in a press statement released earlier in the week: "Many Christians in Iraq are connecting this week's church bombings with the growing furore across the Muslim world caused by the publication of some cartoons caricaturing Mohammad in a Danish newspaper on 30th September 2005.”

The British-based advocacy group suspects that the beating of the Christian students in Iraq over the weekend may be linked to the outcry over the publication of the caricatures.

|QUOTE|The ensuing angry protests and violence have met with widespread condemnation, with White House spokesman Scott McClellan urging “people who are criticising these cartoons to speak out forcefully against all forms of hate speech, including cartoons and articles throughout parts of the Arab world, which frequently espouse anti-Semitic and anti-Christian views.”

Gary McCullough, the director of U.S.-based Christian Newswire, which distributes religious press releases, defended the decision to post press releases showing the cartoons on its website, saying no one paid for the web posting and reassuring that his company is not “speaking on behalf of the Christian faith”.

Mr McCullough did voice the concern, however, that some media in the U.S. may be censoring themselves because of “terrorist threats”, adding that he wants to stand with those who will not be intimidated, reports Crosswalk.

|AD|Meanwhile AsiaNews reported that the daily threats, kidnappings, discrimination and bomb attacks against Christians in Iraq, including recent bombings targeted against Christians in the places of worship in Kirkuk and Baghdad, reveal a “hidden reality of persecution”.

According to the news agency, the aim of the bombings is to feed internal divisions and the ongoing political instability, as well as to “drive the Christian community out of Iraq”.

Although locals attributed the attacks on Jan. 29th to the caricatures of Mohammad, bishop Msgr. Rabban Al Qas of the local Chaldean Church sees very different emotions underlying the bombings.

“It was a well studied plan, perhaps from weeks before; car bombs are not built in a matter of days,” he stated, adding the belief that the recent spate of violence is the work of “forces intent on destabilising and dividing the country”.

So far, one Catholic and two Muslims have been killed by the recent anti-Christian violence in Iraq, with nine left injured.