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6/27/07 Iraq (MNN) — Christian university students and faculty kidnapped last week on their way home from exams at Mosul University have been released.

Local sources said that family members retrieved the freed Christians (six students, two university teachers) from an undisclosed location in Mosul city after a representative of all eight families had paid a ransom for their release.

Open Doors’ Jerry Dykstra says they’re grateful, but: “It just highlights the tremendous difficulties for Iraq’s religious minorities who suffer not only random violence, but they’re also picked out because they’re Christians and also kidnapped for their money”, because Christianity is associated with a wealthy Western society.

Syrian church leaders have organized a volunteer-based village guard of approximately 1,200 men who patrol Qaraqosh’s (near Mosul) perimeter around the clock. Other security measures have been stepped up as well in an effort to stave off the assaults and kidnappings.

As the violence has been increasing, it’s become more evident there’s only a remnant church remaining. “About 50-thousand Iraqis are fleeing the country a month. The estimate is that 44-percent of all of them are Christians.” Christians made up roughly three-percent of the country’s population prior to the U-S invasion of Iraq.

Since then, sources tell Open Doors, that number has dropped as hundreds of thousands have fled Iraq to Jordan and Syria due to the deteriorating security situation in which Christians and other minorities are often specifically targeted.

Dykstra says this story ended well, but not all of them do. He urges prayer. “Behind the scenes there are also many Christians that are also suffering, and their story is not being told. We need to keep up our prayers for them and be informed on what’s happening.”