Shock and fear have gripped the Church in Iraq after two explosions on Tuesday and the threat of more to come.
The Al Beshara (Annunciation) Syrian Catholic Church in Mosul was the first to be targeted at 10.30 am when a bomb was placed against an outside wall of the building.
A minor explosion took place with damage to the wall. Nobody was hurt, and children at a nearby kindergarten had a lucky escape.
Within a few hours, a second, much bigger bomb had gone off at the Al Gahera (Our Lady of Purity) Syrian Orthodox Church, also in Mosul. A number of people were injured in the explosion which caused major damage to the church in the crowded Al Shefaa district in the city center.
Speaking from northern Iraq in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Fr. Bashar Warda described the “fear and shock” of the people who looked forward to Christmas as a time to “lift our spirits.”
In the meantime, the government in Baghdad has warned Church leaders of further attacks over the Christmas period, urging priests and religious Sisters to be especially vigilant.
Fr. Warda said the Church would continue its Christmas preparations undeterred.
The Redemptorist priest based in Ankawa, outside the Kurdish capital, Erbil, added: “Normally Christmas is a time when we lift our spirits with a number of festivities, so you can imagine what the atmosphere is like here now. The shock and the fear of the people is very strong.”
He described talking to Al Beshara parish priest Father Nazen Eshoa, who returned to Mosul to resume his ministry despite being kidnapped for a few days last year.
“Fr. Nazen – like all of us – is shocked, but he wants to continue preparing for Christmas as much as possible.”
The identity of the attackers is as yet unknown and Church leaders do not know if there is a link between the attacks in Mosul and the threats declared in Baghdad.
The attacks come less than three weeks after bomb attacks – again in Mosul – inflicting serious damage to St. Ephrem’s Chaldean Church and a nearby convent.
Nobody was hurt in the attacks on November 26th, although at least five Chaldean Sisters were in the convent when it came under fire.