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Christians in Baghdad pressured by Sunnis

ICC Note: Here is more on the situation for Christians in Iraq

Bishop Shlimon Warduni

5/11/07 Iraq For full story…( Christians are fleeing in droves from the southern Baghdad district of Dora after Sunni insurgents told them that they would be killed unless they converted to Islam or left.

Similar episodes of what has become known as sectarian cleansing raged through Baghdad neighborhoods last year as Sunnis drove Shiites from Sunni areas and Shiites drove Sunnis from Shiite ones. But this is the first attempt to empty an entire Baghdad neighborhood of Christians, according to Christian leaders and families who fled.

The exodus began more than three weeks ago after a fatwa, or religious edict, was issued by Sunni insurgents offering Christians a stark choice: to convert to Islam and pay an ancient Islamic tax known as “jizyah,” or to depart within 24 hours and leave their property behind. If they did neither, they said, they faced death.

Sunni gunmen have been enforcing the edict with a dozen or so kidnappings, a shooting, by knocking on doors, and by posting leaflets on walls — actions that have prompted hundreds of Christians to leave an area that was once home to one of Baghdad’s largest Christian communities.