Christians Fleeing Persecution in Iraq
Iraqi Christians are reluctant to return back to their country despite the call by Church leaders in the country asking the Christian refugees to return.
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
02/27/2009 Iraq (Newsmax.com)-Christians continue to flee Iraq because of religious persecution, even as some Iraqi church leaders are calling on their compatriots to return home.
The church leaders fear that Iraq will become emptied of Christians if the mass exodus continues, leading some of them to issue calls to return that have angered refugees.
The Daura neighborhood of Baghdad has been the scene of mass persecution of Christians since the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq in 2003. Churches have been fire-bombed, homes torched, and Christians ordered by Muslim groups to leave their property and flee for their lives or convert to Islam.
Despite the pattern of Muslim violence, Bishop Abouna claimed that the security situation has changed dramatically, thanks to the surge in U.S. troop presence and the recent appearance in his neighborhood of Iraqi troops.
Recently, however, the Iraqi government has allowed his diocese to hire private guards to protect the Baghdad churches. “They are all Christians, and they control access. The government pays for them. They are like ordinary police, but they are not in the police force.”
Abouna says he hopes that as the recent refugees saw the security improvements, they would decide to come back. “We hope they will choose to do so.”
While Abouna was visiting Lebanon , a priest from the Chaldean patriarchy in Lebanon delivered a tougher version of the same message to the faithful at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the Boushriqeh neighborhood of Beirut , a slum where Iraqi Christians live crammed into tiny apartments they rent for $200 per month.
Rana Ramzi al-Sayigh, 30, is the mother of three small children. She is also the widow of a bodyguard who was murdered when Muslim terrorists attacked the convoy of a bishop, Farraj Rahho of Mosul , last February.
“I was angry when I heard [the message to return]. Everybody was angry,” she tells Newsmax during a visit to her tiny apartment, not far from the church. “I have lost my husband. Does that priest want us all to become widows?”
Rana counts herself among the lucky ones — she had just learned that the U.S. authorities had approved her family’s immigration visas. They were preparing to leave for the United States where she has an uncle in Detroit .
Majid Slaiwa Karomeh, 36, was less lucky. He fled to Beirut recently with his wife and their six small children, after being shot in the shoulder in September.
“I have 1,200 families to care for,” Bishop Kassarji told Newsmax. “Some 6,000 souls. We have so few resources, but it is our job to do what we can.”