By Worthy News Middle East Service
BAGHDAD, IRAQ (Worthy News) -- As Islamic militants stepped up deadly attacks, there were security concerns Thursday, April 30, in Iraq about the plight of followers of the Biblical preacher John the Baptist, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River.
The ancient religious minority, known as Mandaeans, faced several attacks this month in which at least three people were killed, confirmed Ann Buwalda, the executive director of Jubilee Campaign USA, a major Christian advocacy group.
"On April 19, 2009, three Mandaean jewelers were brutally murdered by gunmen in their shops in Baghdad," Buwalda told Worthy News and its news partner BosNewsLife in a statement. "Three others were badly injured and are in serious condition."
The attack was the latest in a series of incidents against the Mandaeans, who speak and worship in the ancient Aramaic language, which was used by Jesus.
Since 2003 the group suffered, "numerous incidents of targeted attacks" including, 167 killings, 275 kidnappings, and 298 assaults and forced conversions to Islam," said The Mandaean Associations Union in published comments.
"In spite of supposed increased security, the Mandaeans continue to be victims of religious violence," Buwalda told BosNewsLife. "The refugees that do escape murder and destruction of their homes and businesses experience a wide dispersion that threatens their survival. In some instances, several family members are killed. Of an original 60,000-70,000 member community, only 5,000 are left," the official added.
The United States and other western countries have accepted many of the displaced Iraqi Mandaeans for refugee resettlement, Buwalda said. "Those who remain are in harms way."
Buwalda said Jubilee Campaign USA has urged its supporters to pray for the "persecuted Christians" in Iraq and that the Iraqi government will "establish a system or group to protect the Mandaeans and act immediately to find the criminals and bring justice to the victims of violence."