Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

Iraqi Christians remain doubtful about security

ICC Note

“It is better, but it will probably not ever be the same for Christians in Iraq,”

By Aamer Madhani,

04/10/2009 Iraq (USA Today) – Salma Younan remembers the day when an al-Qaeda fighter came to her home and demanded she renounce Christianity and convert to Islam.

She told him she would rather die than turn her back on her faith. “My blood is not as precious as my savior’s,” she recalls saying.

Security in her Baghdad neighborhood of Dora has improved since then, and most of the insurgents have disappeared. Many Christians are returning to homes they had abandoned. But Younan, who remained in Dora throughout those violent years, doubts peace will ever fully return for the country’s beleaguered Christian minority.

“It is better, but it will probably not ever be the same for Christians in Iraq,” she said.

During the violence in Dora, once one of the capital’s most diverse areas, two Christian churches were leveled by car bombs, several Christians were kidnapped and killed, and hundreds were forced out of their homes by militia groups.

Dora still has more than 1,500 vacant homes, according to Iraqi police Col. Samir al-Timimi.

There is a ghost-town-like feel to parts of the area surrounding the church of Saints Peter and Paul, where Easter services are planned Sunday for the first time since 2007.

Repair work continues at the main church for Baghdad’s Chaldean Catholics — a sect established in Iraq about 600 years ago and united with the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century.

Khalis Kushaba Oraha, a Chaldean leader who has been working with Iraqi police as a liaison to Christian families who fled the area, said many families are returning home out of necessity rather than choice.

“More people are starting to think it’s time to come, but many of the people who have returned had no choice,” Oraha said. “They’ve run out of money, and living away from their homes is now impossible.”

Salam Kirakous Michael, who was a guard at Saints Peter and Paul until he was beaten and threatened by al-Qaeda militants in June 2007, said about half the homes on his block are vacant.

Several of the homes that do have occupants, Michael said, are occupied by squatters, whom the Iraqi police have been moving out as the homeowners return.

Many of Michael’s wealthier neighbors applied for refugee status and fled to the United States, Canada and Europe.

[Go to Full Story]