03/12/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on March 9, 2018, a Christian family of three living in Baghdad was found dead in their home. An investigation showed that they had been stabbed to death the previous day by an armed group and their valuables were stolen. The victims are Dr. Hisham Shafiq al-Maskuni, his wife Shaza Malik, and his elderly mother Khairiya Dawood.
This is not an isolated tragedy. Attacks on Iraq’s Christian community have forced thousands from their homes. In particular, attacks on Christians in Baghdad have led so many to flee over the years that last summer eight churches closed their doors.
A doctor who worked in the same hospital as Dr. Hisham Shafiq told ICC in tears, “I cannot believe that he passed away in such a terrible way… I once heard Hisham say how people in his neighborhood are giving him hard times because they are trying to take his house and buy it. (I think) probably the killer was trying to threaten him and when Hisham recognized who he is, the killer decided to kill him and the rest of the family.”
This is the second attack against Christians in three weeks; both occurred within the same neighborhood of Baghdad. A spokesperson for Iraq’s Interior Ministry says that the individuals responsible for the deaths of Dr. Hisham Shafiq and his family were arrested on the evening of March 10.
Father Biyos Qasha of Baghdad Maryos Church told Rudaw, “This (attack) means that there is no place for Christians. We are seen as a lamb to be killed at any time.” He also shared his concern that “these are the signs of a start of a (new) plan to force the Christian population from their homes and out of the country.”
Other Christians in Baghdad have echoed this concern. “As a Christian, life is good so long as you don’t have enemies,” said one resident. “(Also you shouldn’t) bring attention to yourself… I feel depressed because of what happened for Hisham and his family, even (though) it is something that has happened so often since 2003, but it still makes me sad.”
A former resident of Baghdad told ICC following last year’s church closures, “Christian immigration passed through three main stages. The first was from 2005-2007, (the) second was in 2010 when some extremists attacked (a) church during Sunday mass and the third stage was in 2014 when ISIS attacked (the) Nineveh Plain.”
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The murder of Dr. Hisham Shafiq and his family is a tragedy that sends a deadly message to other Christians in Baghdad that they are not safe, even in their own homes. Extremists view Christians as defenseless, and thus easy targets for a wide variety of crimes. As a result, the persecution which Iraqi Christians have faced over the last decade has been monumentally heartbreaking. Our prayers are with the surviving family members during this difficult time.”