Hundreds of Christians and other Iraqis attended the funeral of 2 priests and dozens of others who were killed in an attack on a Baghdad church on October 31st.
An Al-Q'aida affiliated group called the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack, in which militants stormed a Syriac Catholic church during Mass, shooting some members of the congregation, and holding others hostage. At least 39 parishioners along with a number of police officers guarding the church were killed in the maelstrom of violence. Many other parishioners were wounded.
Iraqi Security Forces were able to save more than half of the congregation in a rescue operation which ended the violence. Iraqi Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki and other members of Iraq's political and religious leadership have publically condemned the attack.
The assault at Our Lady of Salvation Church was one of the deadliest single attacks on Iraq's beleaguered Christians since 2003, when Islamic extremists began to target the community in a series of bombings and assassination attempts. Thousands have since fled the country where Christians have lived since the first century. Al-Qaeda in Iraq announced in a recent internet posting that attacks on Christians will continue.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denounced the violent invasion of the church by terrorists:
"We mourn the loss of life and extend our condolences to the victims' families, friends and communities. The events that unfolded on Sunday were particularly reprehensible, as a place of worship was specifically involved."
But Christians have not been the only targets of recent, terrible violence in Iraq. On the same day on which the funeral for the murdered Christians was held, dozens of people were killed and hundreds wounded in an apparently coordinated series of bombing attacks that took place in predominantly Shiite areas of Baghdad.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted that the United States is fully aware that "the overwhelming majority of Iraqis from all [Iraq's] communities reject violence. We stand with them as we work together to combat terrorism and protect the people of our two nations."