Iraqi Christians Protest Mosul Bomb Attack

Thousands of Iraqi Christians gathered in the northern city of Mosul on Monday to protest the latest set of attacks on the country's dwindling religious minority.

The attack took place on Sunday when two bombs exploded near a bus carrying a group of Christian students to the University of Mosul. The blast killed one person and injured more than 170, including bystanders.

Nearly 3,000 people turned out for Monday's demonstration, waving signs that read "We are not a minority, we are an authentic part of the Iraqi people," according to AFP. The protestors also called on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to work towards curbing the violence.

The attacks have also been condemned by several religious leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI.

Redemptorist priest Fr. Bashar Warda told Fides news agency that he was "shocked" at the attacks, noting that the victims were not soldiers or activists but "only students carrying their books, pens, their dreams of growing and serving their country," according to Catholic News Agency.

"Christians are still the target, and they are the privileged victims of violence," he said.

In a telegram written on behalf of Pope Benedict, Vatican officials said that the pontiff was "deeply saddened by the news of the tragic loss of life and injuries" and called on "all men and women of good will to hold fast to the ways of peace and to repudiate all acts of violence which have caused so much suffering."

Last week, the U.S.-based National Council of Churches (NCC) sent a letter to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton urging her to take action to protect Iraq's Christian population, which the NCC believes is more vulnerable as Iraq continues to struggle in concluding its recent elections.

"Our concern is now particularly acute because it is possible that tensions will increase as various political forces continue to vie for power following the recent elections," the letter said. "We fear that a growing climate of mistrust and animosity will further threaten the fragile Christian community."

A recount of votes from Iraq's March 7 election is now taking place after Prime Minister al-Maliki accused the seemingly victorious opposition party, led by former PM Ayad Allawi, of voter fraud in five provinces, including the country's capital of Baghdad. The original vote in Baghdad had Allawi head by two parliamentary seats.

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