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A ringing doorbell at the Baghdad home of an elderly Christian couple seemed innocent enough five days after Christmas. But when Fawzi Rahim, 76, and wife Janet Mekha, 78, opened their front door, a bomb exploded and took their lives.

The suspected militant attack was one of several on December 30, 2010, when 14 other Christians in Baghdad were seriously injured in their homes. The violence followed the October 31 attack on a Baghdad Syriac Catholic cathedral that killed 68 people, and a declaration by the Islamic State of Iraq, a terrorist group, that it was waging war on Christians.

The militant group claims that Egypt's Coptic Church is holding two women captive because they converted to Islam. Coptic leaders deny the allegations. Analysts believe the militants are using the "Egyptian women" as a pretext to attack Iraq's besieged Christian community.

Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, labeled the attacks a "ruthless cleansing campaign by Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish militants." U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner called on the government of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to swiftly "apprehend the terrorists behind these acts."

Pope Benedict XVI condemned the growing campaign against Christians in the Middle East in his New Year's Day homily: "In the face of the threatening tensions of the moment, especially in the face of discrimination, of abuse of power and religious intolerance that today particularly strikes Christians, I again direct a pressing invitation not to yield to discouragement and resignation." Benedict made these remarks hours after a car bomb outside a church ...

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February 2011

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