WASHINGTON (BP) -- The body of a kidnapped 5-year-old Iraqi Christian boy was discovered riddled with gunshots May 11, according to a report issued May 13 by International Christian Concern, a Washington-based human rights organization.
The youth, Tony Adwar Shaweel, was kidnapped March 5 and held for $50,000 ransom by an unknown group, ICC reported. The identity of Shaweel's kidnappers and killers remains unknown.
In a statement to ICC, Juliana Taimoorazy, president of the Chicago-based Iraqi Christian Relief Council, said, "On Sunday, May 10th, Christians in Chicago prayed in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Iraq for peace and especially for the safe return of the kidnapped. Unfortunately, the following day, on Monday, the community was notified of the discovery of his body. The Iraqi Christians in Chicago are mourning the loss of yet another one of their own."
ICC noted in its report: "Christians in Iraq have been increasingly targeted by criminal gangs, Islamic extremists and other armed groups as part of a broader strategy to drive the Iraqi Christian population from the country. Despite these appalling conditions, the media rarely reports violence against Christians in Iraq."
Taimoorazy told ICC: "What we need is for the American government to take notice of this dire situation. We are demanding that the State Department work on passing legislation which would ensure the protection of the Chaldo-Assyrian Christians in their own homeland. We want to live peacefully side by side with the other citizens in Iraq. This situation has long gone unnoticed. We implore the international community to pay attention and unite in helping the sons and daughters of those who gave so much to civilization over 6,700 years ago."
Jonathan Racho, ICC's regional manager for Africa and the Middle East, said, "This latest unconscionable act indicates the deteriorating situation for Christian minorities in Iraq. It is also a clear sign of the danger that all Iraqi Christians face in the country. We call upon the Iraqi and the United States government to put an end to the systematic extermination of Christians from Iraq."
ICC urged supporters: "Please go to www.house.gov to find the information of your elected officials and alert them to the killing of Tony and ask them to pressure Iraqi officials to protect Iraqi Christians."
Iraq is one of 13 countries cited by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for designation among "countries of particular concern" (CPCs) for foreign governments that have participated in or tolerated "particularly severe" violations of religious liberty.
The Iraqi government, which USCIRF placed back on its CPC-recommended list in December, has tolerated "ongoing, severe abuses of religious freedom," especially against Christians and other religious minorities, commissioner Nina Shea said when USCIRF released its annual report May 1.
While overall violence has diminished in Iraq, incidents against religious minorities have continued, Shea said, noting that about half of the Christian community of 1.4 million people has fled Iraq or been killed in recent years.
Although USCIRF makes recommendations for the CPC list, only the State Department gives countries that designation. Outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named only eight countries as CPCs in January: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
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