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In Sweden, asylum and church go together for Christian Iraqis

ICC Note

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country’s Christians have been going through unprecedented persecution due to their faith in Jesus Christ. The government of Sweden has been welcoming the persecuted Iraqis into the country. This commendable act of the Swedish government should be emulated by other countries too.

05/27/2008 Iraq (AFP)-for many Christian Iraqis who have found a safe haven in Sweden , integrating into a strange new culture is a trying process. But their churches, present in Sweden for decades, play a big role in easing the way.

Sweden is the European country that has taken in the most Christian Iraqis, who have been persecuted for the religious beliefs in their own homeland.

They number some 30,000 in Sweden and 70,000 in Europe , according to the European Syriac Union. Most of them arrived either during the first Gulf War in 1990-1991 or after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Some 97,500 Iraqis lived in Sweden in 2007, according to Statistics Sweden, with the country taking in more Iraqis last year than any other nation in Europe .

In 2006 and 2007 some 4,000 Iraqi refugees, almost all of them Christians arrived in Soedertaelje and the town expects about another 1,000 to arrive in 2008.

Sweden , known for its generous humanitarian aid and refugee policy, provides extensive assistance to immigrants, guaranteeing them housing, helping them find jobs and providing Swedish language classes.

“In most regions, Christians are told to convert to Islam or leave the country. They are subjected to threats, kidnappings and robberies,” says Nabil Radif who regularly phones home to provide support.

Twenty-four-year-old Nawar, who arrived in Sweden from Baghdad in 2003, shares the same concerns as Radif.

“My family has the same problems as all Christians. They don’t have a good life over there, they keep wondering when they’re going to die,” he says as he leaves a religious service at the Syriac Orthodox Sankt Mikael’s Church in Soedertaelje.

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