Mass commemorates Christians murdered in Iraq
Iraqi Christians exiled in the UK held a mass on Saturday to
commemorate relatives and friends murdered because of their faith in
Around 90 Iraqi exiles living across Britain attended the service to
say prayers for lost loved ones and those still in Iraq.
Led by Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod, the head of the Syrian
Orthodox Church in the UK, the mass included prayers for Christians
killed in recent attacks in Mosul, northern Iraq.
The mass, in the Holy Family Church in Fairwater, Cardiff, also
featured prayers for peace.
Speaking before the mass, Archbishop Dawod urged the British
government to help Christians in Iraq.
"We wanted to show what is happening in Iraq and how people are
suffering," he said. "We wanted to show people that we are here and
that we are alive and to raise our voices. And we want to show the
government in the UK that we need to get help for our people."
During the mass, Archbishop Dawod said that thousands of Christians
had left Mosul after being ordered to do so via loudspeakers.
He said: "Some Christians were forcefully evicted from their homes
and their homes were blown up in front of their eyes. Some had their
"They have succeeded in petrifying the innocent and peace-loving
people, forcing them to flee."
The organiser of the mass, Laith Khalaf, 59, the chairman of the
Iraqi Christian Association in Wales, said: "There are relatives of
people who have been killed living here. We would like the Iraqi and
British government to come up with a solution for families.
"Our aim today is just to help. They are our brothers and sisters and
our families and we want to help them."
Alen Mbunni fled Iraq and came to the UK four years ago with her
sister Farjeri. She applied to stay in the UK to avoid persecution
for being a Christian, but is still waiting to find out whether she
will be granted asylum.
Her Christian nephew was recently worshipping in a church in Mosul
when it was blown up by a bomb. He suffered minor injuries from the
shattered glass from the church windows.
The 75-year-old, who lives in Cardiff, said: "I have relatives who
have left Iraq to live in Syria and Jordan. They had to leave their
homes and everything they own to go. They have young children and
they are afraid.
"Living conditions are very difficult. They can't get jobs and the
cost of living is very high. We couldn't go back to Iraq. There's no
home, no family and we are over 70."
Karam Sawaf, 26, fled Iraq in 2005 after being kidnapped and shot
near his home. He was in his third year of a computer science degree
when he left. He is barred from working in the UK while he awaits a
decision on his asylum claim, but is now studying accountancy at a
college in London. He is also a deacon at his local church.
He said: "Some Islamic militants came to my father's factory and said
if he didn't close his shop they would kill or kidnap me. We paid
them and they went away.
"In February 2005 they came to my car and started shooting. I was in
a coma and woke up in hospital. After that my father decided we
should leave the country."
Paediatrician Basam Fathoala, 52, fled Iraq to move to Cardiff with
his GP wife Raiea nine years ago. The couple are desperately worried
about Raiea's brother and sister, who are living in Baghdad.
Mrs Fathoala said her brother and sister are not able to go outside
their homes in Iraq. Her eyes filling with tears as she spoke, she
said: "They are there with their children and they can't leave. They
have to leave their houses in live in different places. I'm really,
really scared for them. It's a critical situation."
Her husband said: "We are here to support the Christian people in
Iraq. So many people were forced to leave their homes and quite a few
were killed there.
"We want to raise our voice as something needs to be done. We can't
leave the Iraqi people there suffering. They just want to live