Thousands rally for beleaguered Christians of Iraq

thousand Christians from across Europe gathered in Brussels on Saturday to protest against a recent escalation of violence against followers of the religion in Iraq.
 “We want our voice to be heard by the European community,” said Suleyman Gultekin of the European Syriac Union which organised the march.
 “We are being attacked systematically in Iraq.”
Syriac Christians have lived in the Middle East for centuries and now make up a small minority in countries like Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Turkey.
 The demonstration follows a string of violent attacks against the Christian community in Iraq, which has already dwindled from 1.5 million to about 400,000 over the past decade.
 Gunmen stormed a Sunday service in Baghdad on October 31 killing 68 people including two priests and injuring many others.
 Five more people were killed and 20 wounded on Wednesday in more than a dozen bombings and mortar attacks targeting Christian families in the Iraqi capital.
 “Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime the Iraqi government has not been able to protect us,” said Mr Gultekin.
 “So our conclusion is that we need autonomy in the north of Iraq to protect our people and to be in a safe and secure place.”
 Police estimated that about 4,000 people marched in the demonstration in pouring rain, although organisers claimed many more.
 They carried pictures of the two priests killed in the attack on the church and chanted slogans condemning violence against Christians in French, English and Arabic.
 The march was led by a group of Syriac priests and culminated in a rally in front of the headquarters of the European Commission.
 Thousands of people also demonstrated in Vienna against the killings. Organisers said that around 3,000 people participated in the protest.