ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - A Christian doctor and two members of his family were killed in a home invasion after being stabbed by unknown assailants in Baghdad on Friday, security sources said.
One source told Kurdistan 24 that at least four men brandishing knives stormed the doctor's house in eastern Baghdad's predominantly Shia neighborhood of Mashtal, and then began stabbing him and his family.
Another source said the attackers stole money and valuables after the victims were dead.
The doctor, Hisham Shafiq Meskuni, worked as a radiologist at al-Rahibat Hospital in the downtown Karrada district of Baghdad. Also reported killed were Shatha Malik Danu, his wife, and his elderly mother, Khairiya Dawoud.
Other security sources said that Dr. Meskuni was the sole target of the initial attack, but when his wife intervened, the two women were killed as well.
Baghdad has seen similar assaults against members of religious minorities, including Christians and the much smaller community of Sabean Mandeans, but security authorities often claim such acts to be criminal in nature and not motivated by sectarianism.
Christians in Iraq have been subjected to widespread violence since 2003, prompting many of them to flee to the Kurdistan Region or outside of Iraq, with many resettling to Europe and the United States.
Over the past few years, many Baghdad churches have been closed because of dwindling congregations as a result of migration following attacks against Christians.
Previously, International Christian Concern (ICC), based in Washington DC, released a report in mid-2017 that indicated eight churches in Iraq’s capital had been shuttered after Christians residents fled southern Iraq out of fear of persecution.
“After the regional Catholic Church authority visited the churches, the Vatican decided that it was best to close the doors for good… While this makes logistical sense, it represents a symbolic defeat for the Church in the capital of Iraq,” read the ICC report.
Much attention has been given to Iraqi Christians following the emergence of the Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq which devastated Christian communities in areas such as Mosul and the Nineveh Plains.
“Christians have faced various forms of persecution and discrimination [in Iraq] from a wide variety of perpetrators throughout the past 15 years,” the ICC highlighted.
Iraqi Christians made up 10 percent of Iraq’s total population before 2003. According to Christian leaders and officials, there is now an estimated population as low as 300,000 remaining in the country, mostly residing in the Kurdistan Region.
Editing by John J. Catherine