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ICC: Soon, there won’t be any problem as the Christians are emptying out at such an alarming rate.
Christians under fire

For the full story, go to Monsters and Critics. Several groups are calling for improved treatment of Christians in Iraq, who they say are being martyred, persecuted or forced to flee the country to survive.

Among the atrocities are the bombing of more than 15 churches, the kidnapping and murder of 13 Assyrian women in Baghdad in August, and the beheading of a priest in Mosul in October, says Julia Sorisho Rodgers of Christians for Assyrians of Iraq. ‘A lot of people in Washington don`t know who the Assyrians are,’ said Rodgers, who organized a Dec. 4 rally outside the White House to protest the treatment of Assyrians, who include Christians, Catholics and Orthodox Church members.

‘It`s highly personal for me because so many of my relatives [are] there,’ added Rodgers, a Chicago native whose parents emigrated from Iraq. ‘They`re suffering from violence, lack of jobs and persecution. We`re being isolated for our faith.’

In addition to petitions circulating on the Internet, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has urged granting refugee status to these persecuted believers. In November, USCIRF wrote to Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs, urging her to expand refugee options for the Chaldo-Assyrian and Sabean Mandean communities.

It also asked Dobriansky to urge the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to resume full refugee status for Iraqi asylum seekers and speedily assess claims. In a Dec. 7 letter of response, Dobriansky said the government is concerned about Iraqi refugees` plight, Baptist Press reported Monday.

(Several petitions circulating) call for creating a special administrative unit in northern Iraq . CAI says that will allow Assyrians and other Christians to practice their faith, speak and teach their language, and work their land without fear of persecution.

USCIRF Commissioner Nina Shea said these Christians are caught between supporters of the war in Iraq who don`t want to acknowledge there are problems and those against the war who shun discussions of human rights. In the middle are numerous innocent victims, said Shea, who recently briefed the Iraq Study Group about human rights conditions there.

‘They are being bludgeoned by the Islamic extremists,’ said Shea, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Center for Religious Freedom. ‘Their priests have been beheaded, churches bombed and there`s a recent report of a crucifixion of a teenage boy.

‘The United Nations refugee report has determined they are being targeted for their faith. Although they represent about four percent of the population, they represent 40 percent of the refugee population from Iraq .’

There is some confusion over the terminology for these believers, said Rodgers, who chose to use ‘Assyrian’ as the primary identifier, although others are known as Chaldeans or Syriacs. ChaldoAssyrian is a political label assigned to various Christian groups during a transitional period prior to adoption of Iraq`s new constitution, according to Shea.

The author of a 2004 report on human rights abuses, Shea said Iraq is undergoing the kind of Islamization that has existed for years in Saudi Arabia . Although historically Iraq has been a pluralistic society, she said extremists are pushing to enforce Islamic law, both criminally and behaviorally.

As a result, Kurdish governors are refusing to hook up Christian villages to utilities and water and sewer systems that have been paid for by American taxes, Shea said. When those residents leave for other nations, including those who hope to join relatives in the U.S. , they are often the target of Islamic extremists, Shea said.

‘There`s an extinction of an ancient Christian community,’ Shea said. ‘It`s not only a loss to the church, it`s a loss for Christianity because they date to apostolic times.