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Priest Hopes For Return of Christians To Iraq

ICC Note

The improvement in security situation has convinced small number of Iraqi Christians to return back to their country.

By Karim Hilmi

02/19/2009 Iraq ( blast walls and armed paramilitaries carrying AK-47 assault rifles still guard the street leading to Baghdad ‘s Virgin Mary Cathedral.

But despite the danger that comes with being a Christian in Iraq , Father Azeria Warda Benyameen refuses to accept any bodyguards.

“I believe the mighty God is the supreme protector and He gives life and He is the only one who takes it,” Benyameen says with a smile.

Attack in 2006

During the sectarian violence in 2005 and 2006, many churches were targeted by suicide attackers and car bombs. As part of the Old Eastern Church in Iraq , Virgin Mary Cathedral was no exception.

In September 2006, a guard was killed, 10 civilians were hurt and the cathedral and nearby homes suffered “huge damage” after a car bombing.

Benyameen believes these developments have convinced a small number of Christians, who had been displaced by violence, to return to their homes.

“Many Christians were forced to leave the country to Syria , Lebanon , Jordan and Turkey in hope to emigrating to their final destination in the U.S. , Canada , Australia and Europe and many of them are now settled in these countries,” he said.

Benyameen said the church used to give lessons in the Chaldean language and the history and principles of Christianity to about 300 children every summer holiday. The number has now dropped to about 50 students each year.

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