Phoenix demonstrators protest against Assyrian massacre in Iraq
by Molly Smith, The Arizona Republic. November 8, 2010 at 04:58 PM.
PHOENIX, Arizona — More than 400 people gathered near Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Phoenix on Monday afternoon to speak against what they say is the oppression of Christians in Iraq.
On Oct. 31, an Iraqi militant group broke into Our Lady of Deliverance church, the main Catholic worship place in Baghdad, and held 120 Assyrian Christians hostage. Fifty-two people were killed, including 10 police officers and one priest, and another 67 were wounded, according to the Associated Press.
Many of the victims were women and children.
In the aftermath of the attack, Assyrians, an indigenous group from Iraq, held rallies across the country on Monday to speak out against the massacre. Cities including Chicago, New York, and Toronto held protests similar to the one in Phoenix, where local religious groups assembled at noon to protest the killings.
Many of those present said they had friends and family left in Iraq, some of whom were killed in the attack on the church.
The father of Jandar Baba, a 16-year-old Glendale resident, was killed during the attack.
"We want protection for our people, we want al-Qaida to stop killing Christians," Baba said.
The event was organized by a group called the American Assyrian Youth Coalition, which was formed only five days ago in response to the attacks, said Mike Darmo, 27, the group's spokesman. The group will become official within the next two weeks, after it drafts by-laws and sets up official internal structure. Darmo said it is likely the name could change, and describes the group as a "rag-tag group of youth" looking for change.
Representatives from groups such as the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Assyrians for Justice, the American-Israeli Alliance and the Assyrian Church of the East were present. According to Darmo, in addition to Assyrians, there were also Israelis, Greeks, Catholics, Muslims, Palestinians and Egyptians in attendance.
"We want peace between religions," Darmo said. "Terrorism is not bound to one religion, it is bound to evil. With cooperation we hope to make the world aware of this and not let history repeat itself."