Diocese: Update on church bombings in Iraq

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Chris H. Zakian, Coordinator of Public Relations
Tel: (212) 686-0710 Ext. 44; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]

August 2, 2004


AUGUST 2, 2004, NEW YORK CITY — Many people have contacted the Eastern
Diocesan Center in New York City to inquire about yesterday’s attack by
Islamic extremists on Christian churches in Iraq. To the many who have
expressed their concern, the Eastern Diocese conveys its thanks. This
message is intended to confirm and, to the extent possible, expand the
information currently available.

News reports have already detailed that an Armenian sanctuary in
Baghdad’s prosperous Karada district was the target of the first of
several coordinated car-bomb attacks on churches in that city and in the
city of Mosul, some 200 miles to the north.

According to a communiqué from the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the
targeted Armenian Church was an Armenian Catholic sanctuary. His
Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All
Armenians, was able to contact the chairman of the church via telephone,
to express his sympathy and assess the situation. The chairman stressed
that no Armenians were killed in the explosions.

Holy Etchmiadzin’s official statement (which appears below) affirms that
the attacks did not extend to any of Baghdad’s several Armenian
Apostolic churches, nor to the local Diocesan headquarters.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, primate of the Diocese of the Armenian
Church of America (Eastern), received the above information during a
telephone conversation with Catholicos Karekin II. He expects shortly
to be able to contact Archbishop Avak Asadourian, the primate of Iraq,
who returned to the embattled country last week after a brief sojourn in
the United States. (In early July, Archbishop Asadourian discussed the
Iraqi Armenian community at the Diocesan Center in New York City;
details can be found here:

The August 1 attacks are being seen as a new development in the tactics
of the Islamic terrorists, who until now have not directly targeted
Iraq’s minority Christian communities. However, recent weeks have
witnessed a campaign of violence and intimidation against alcohol
sellers throughout Iraq, the majority of whom are Christians of the
Assyrian, Chaldean, and Armenian denominations. (Muslims are prohibited
by their religion from selling or imbibing alcohol.) Present estimates
place the Christian population of Iraq at around 800,000, mostly
concentrated in Baghdad. The Armenian community numbers itself at
around 20,000, more than half of whom reside in and around Baghdad.

The Eastern Diocese will continue to provide updated information to the
public as it becomes available. In the meantime, our hearts and prayers
go out to our countrymen in Iraq. And our thoughts are with all the
people of Iraq, as they struggle to defend the seeds of democracy.


* * *


[August 2, 2004] The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin learned with sorrow
from the Armenian Diocese of Iraq of the terrorist events of August 1,
the result of which caused loss of life and many to be injured. Five
churches were damaged, among them being an Armenian Catholic church.
The Armenian Apostolic churches and Diocesan headquarters of Iraq were
not attacked or damaged.

The Armenian Apostolic Holy Church expresses her sympathies to the
families of the victims and all Iraqi people, and wishes complete
recovery to the wounded and injured. We pray that the centuries of
friendship and peaceful co-existence among Christian and Muslim peoples
in the East will not be endangered by similar condemnable violence; for
peace to be re-established in the region; and that the Iraqi people
continue with the creation of their safe and progressing lives.

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