Among those who fled is Ayleen Georges, 40, whose husband was kidnapped in early April by Sunni insurgents. They later apologized, told him they had abducted the wrong man, and let him go. Ten days later, after the edict appeared, they kidnapped him again.
He is too shaken to talk about being abducted, but she described how the gunmen repeatedly told him he would be killed unless he converted to Islam or left his home within 24 hours.
"They said to him, 'Why haven't you become a Muslim?' He told them, 'We have faith in the Virgin Mary.' And then they cursed the Virgin Mary," she said, breaking down in tears. "They told him to leave within 24 hours and they said we had to leave all our property and possessions behind, or we would be killed."
... Abdullah al-Noufali, head of the Christian Endowment, a state body that oversees Iraq's churches, said he had heard of many instances in which local Sunni residents had offered to help or protect their threatened Christian neighbors. He blames outsiders -- the Al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents who have converged on Dora over the past three years, turning it into one of Baghdad's most violent extremist strongholds.
"The problem isn't religious, it's economic. The Christians are soft targets. They don't react with violence. They will pay or leave," al-Noufali said. "Families are leaving every day, and by this summer, there won't be one Christian left in Dora."
According to Kanna, the pressure on Christians in Dora has intensified since the arrival in recent months of a fresh influx of Al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents squeezed out of their stronghold in western Anbar province by a U.S.-backed tribal alliance. Gunmen began visiting churches in the area and ordered them to take down the cross, and since then, all the area's clergymen have fled and the district's nine churches have closed.
The reason I highlighted the first part is because the views of the Sunni gunmen towards Our Blessed Lady indicate that they were almost certainly followers of Wahhabism, the barbaric Saudi sect that produced Osama bin Laden. As those who have encountered actual Muslims will tell you, many of them hold the Virgin Mary in reverence to the point where cursing her would be unthinkable. Wahhabis reject most of that and many other Islamic traditions, meaning as a result that they would think nothing of behaving in a manner.
Moreover, Mark also seems to be ignoring that Anbar, which is pretty much Sunni central these days, is actually doing pretty well, hence the influx of al-Qaeda fighters to softer targets like the Christians of the Doura neighborhood (a point that the article itself makes). So Mark can pooh-pooh Bush's second inaugural address all he wants, but by all accounts it sure looks like a lot of the Sunnis in Anbar and other provinces are starting to get with the program at a time when he, Rod, and so many others are ready to so cavalierly abandon them to be slaughtered despite their incredible courage. And I have to say that his concern for Sanharib Benuel and his family might be a heck of a lot more convincing were its ultimate point on the fallacy of the Iraq war not going to result in the death or enslavement of Sanharib and every other Iraqi Christian were it taken to its logical conclusion. He can call that secular messianism if he wants, but I think it's easy enough to support on the Christian principle that we should not abandon our friends to certain death. Rod, to his credit, recognizes this and has stated that he wants to grant visas to every Iraqi that helped the US and their families. Mark, near as I can tell, never has.