At least 58 people, including worshippers, security forces and hostage takers, were killed after a hostage siege in a Catholic church in Baghdad on Sunday evening. During the evening Mass, several gunmen entered the building. After four hours, securityÂ forces stormed the church and ended the hostage situation. However, there were many deaths, including women and children, and about 75 wounded in the attack.
Â An Open Doors worker from Baghdad requests prayer for the affected Christians. He reports that two of the pastors were killed in the church. The third pastor, he states, was brought to the hospital and died because of his injuries.
Â â€œI am very confused and shocked; two of the pastors were my friends,â€ he said.
Â Dr. Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA, says: â€œThis is a horrific and despicable act targeting innocent Christian worshippers. There still is a war going on in Iraq â€“ a war by Muslim extremists to drive Christians out of the country. This is another tragic reminder that Christians are targeted every day for their faith in Jesus Christ â€“ in Iraq and all over the world. Please join me today in prayer for the families of the victims, and also on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Nov. 14.â€
Â Several sources, including the BBC and Ankawa.com, have also contributed information on the tragedy.
Â The extremists attacked the guards of the Stock Exchange building, but then raided the Assyrian Catholic Our Lady of Salvation Church. An Open Doors worker said â€œIt appeared to be a well-planned and strategic attack aiming at the church.â€
Â The attackers reportedly sprayed bullets randomly, leaving several worshippers wounded or dead. Two of the pastors, Father Saad Abdal Thaâ€™ir and Father Waseem Tabeeh, were beaten when they tried to reason with the terrorists.
Â When negotiations failed, Iraqi security forces stormed the church. Explosions and shooting followed . Reportedly, one of the attackers detonated his suicide vest killing himself and several of the hostages. Although at least 37 people are dead, some sources report as many as 58 deaths and that the number of worshippers in the church varied from 60 to 120 people attending the Mass.
Â Ankawa.com reported there were about 100 Christians in the church. An eyewitness describes these four hours as: â€œIncredible tragic. We were all locked up in a room in the middle of darkness; all we could hear was the sound of shooting bullets. We were all in fear, and some of us were in a hysterical state of panic.â€
Â The BBC reports militants contacted the authorities by mobile phone and demanded the release of Al-Qaeda prisoners and a number of Muslim women they insisted were being held prisoner by the Coptic Church in Egypt.
Â In the past few years, Christians from Baghdad and other cities have encountered violence and attacks. In May 2010, a bomb attack targeted three buses with Christian students on their way to Mosul. Previously in February, there was a series of killings of Christians in Mosul and hundreds of Christian families fled the violent city. In July 2009, there was a coordinated series of bomb attacks against six Bagdad churches as well as churches in other cities. Iraq is ranked No. 17 on the Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians.
Â Prayer Requests:
Â 1) Peace in this war-torn country.
Â 2) Families of those who lost their beloved ones.
Â 3) Healing of the trauma of the survivors of this brutal act.
Â If you would like to arrange an interview, please contact Open Doors USA Media Relations Director Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email JerryD@odusa.org.
Â An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the worldâ€™s most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers.
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