Christians of Iraq: Convert to Islam or Die

Advent of light and shadow for Iraq's Christians, who celebrate the reopening of the cathedral of Baghdad but they must undergo the same new - and heavy - threats by a radical Shiite Muslim leader. From studies of a television broadcaster based in Egypt, Ayatollah Al Baghdadi launches a fatwa against religious minority on the eve of Christmas: "Conversion to Islam or death." However, the power of faith overcomes the fear of violence as witnessed by the celebrations for the "rebirth" of the Syrian Catholic cathedral in the capital, the scene of a bloody attack at the end of October 2010.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baghdad which was the
target of a terrorist attack on October 2010 claiming 58 lives

In an interview last December 13 on Egyptian television Al Baghdadia , the Shiite ayatollah Ahmad Al Hassani Al Baghdadi issued a fatwa against Christians in Iraq.Labeling them as "polytheists" and "friends of the Zionists", the extremist leader stressed that they must choose "either Islam or death," while "their women and girls may legitimately be regarded wives of Muslims." Al Baghdadi is known for his positions proclaiming "Al jihad" (the holy war for Islam)  and for attacking the Americans in the past during their presence in the country, and today he lives in Syria and supports the armed opposition.

Catholic sources confirm that it is "a very serious fatwa," but "it is unlikely that people will be upset too much." The government pays "attention" to these proclamations extremists, however it is possible that such words can "create panic in some areas of the capital," where Christians "are few."

This morning meanwhile Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, presided over the re-dedication ceremony of the restored Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The place reopened yesterday for the faithful and for worship, the Cathedral was the scene of a massacre carried out by a group of al Qaeda, which killed about 50 faithful and two priests on October 31, 2010.

During the homily, the cardinal immediately recalled the "testimony offered by many of our brothers and sisters" who "preceded by two young and heroic priests" have "united forever their lives to Jesus Christ." He pointed out the "honorable sacrifices" that have allowed the reopening of the cathedral and pointed out that, through the comfort and hope "the Lord encourages Eastern Christians, and especially those of Iraq, to ​​communion and testimony." Bringing the greetings of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Sandri invoked the Lord, because "the tears in this sacred place, the good seed of communion and witness bear much fruit."

Cardinal Sandri is in Iraq for a five-day official visit, which began on December 13, in addition to the consecration, he took part in the Christmas concert organized for the Year of Faith in Armenian cathedral in the capital, while in the next day he is planning to visit Kirkuk and Erbil in the north. 

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