The al-Qaeda aligned gunmen stormed the church during mass, taking the congregants hostage. The militants destroyed the church, taunted the congregants for their faith, and randomly shot some of the hostages. A gunman began killing the Christians en masse when the security forces stormed the church.
“I was raised at that church… When I knew the church had been attacked, I went there to help because my son and his family [were] there. For more than two hours the government didn’t respond,” Kasim, a local affected by the attack, remembered. “By [the] time everything was over, I lost my son and his family at that place, something that cannot be forgotten.”
Lina, another victim of the attack, recalled, “I was inside the church. The terrorist[s] thought I was dead. I was covered by a dead body at some point, it was so hard, I can’t describe it.”
She continued, “Eight years have passed and still I can’t forget the pain on my back when a terrorist stepped [there] and broken glass was everywhere. His shoes were so painful on my back and hence I couldn’t even breathe, I was trying to hide to stay alive… We thought that they are taking hostages and will ask for money, but soon we realized that they will kill everyone. Church mass turned into disaster that day.”
Said one priest, “If I have a word to describe the church bombing incident, it would be government corruption and failure.”
The 2010 bombing was initially regarded as the country’s worst incident of Christian persecution since 2003. However, this would change four years later when ISIS militants swept across the Nineveh Plains in 2014, displacing tens of thousands of Christians and prompting a mass exodus of Christian immigration from Iraq. Today, ISIS is militarily defeated, but the situation for Christians remains dangerous and uncertain.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Eight years ago, the Iraqi Christian community suffered an unimaginable tragedy that sadly was foreshadowing things to come. The massacre at Our Lady of Salvation Church continues to traumatize those who were there, and more broadly remains a defining moment for Iraq’s beleaguered Christians. A high level of persecution persists in Iraq, the underlying causes of which have not been addressed and have contributed to the decreasing number of believers left in the country. We must keep the victims of the 2010 massacre in our prayers today as they remember the horrific violence that forever changed their lives.”