Christian town in north Iraq offers refuge
“For hundreds of terrified Christian families who fled attacks in Baghdad and Mosul in recent months, an ancient Christian town in Iraq's north has offered a safe haven from violence,” AFP reports.
By Prashant Rao
2/27/2011 Iraq (AFP) – For hundreds of terrified Christian families who fled attacks in Baghdad and Mosul in recent months, an ancient Christian town in Iraq's north has offered a safe haven from violence.
Qara Qosh, which lies east of Mosul in Nineveh province, took in hundreds of families after an October 31 massacre in a Baghdad church claimed by Al-Qaeda.
Forty-four worshippers and two priests were killed in the incident that terrorised the minority and drew condemnation from Iraq's top Muslim clergy.
While most families fled from the capital and Mosul, Iraq's two biggest cities, others arrived here from the ethnically mixed oil city of Kirkuk and even as far south as the Shiite Muslim majority port city of Basra, according to Bishop Georges Casmoussa, Qara Qosh's top Christian leader.
"These families, they suffered a trauma," the bishop told Major General David Perkins, commander of US forces in northern Iraq, on a recent visit here. The church has been the undisputed authority for years in this town of 35,000, close to the border of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.
"To be attacked inside your own church, it is traumatic," the bishop said.
"We come to the church to pray, to find peace. If you cannot find that in the church, where can you go?"
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 1,354 Iraqi Christian families have not returned to their homes since the Baghdad church attack.
The number of Iraqi Christians has dwindled from an estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million prior to the 2003 US-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein to about 400,000 today. Most are in Baghdad, the Mosul area and parts of Kurdistan.