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National Catholic Register tells us the story of Paulos and Maryam, two Iraqi Christians who fled persecution to the United States.

By John Burger

4/23/2011 Iraq (National Catholic Register) – Paulos and Maryam are refugees from Iraq. They came to the United States six months ago, after spending a year and a half in Turkey as asylum-seekers under a U.N. program.

They are part of the flood of Christians who have left countries like Iraq in the face of Islamist persecution. And countries like Iraq, which were once proud Christian lands, are seeing the ancient Christian communities disappear.

I am using pseudonyms in referring to them because they — and their family members back home — are not out of danger.

And what does that danger look like? We’ve seen plenty of it on the news — and continue to, unfortunately. Some of the worst happened in Baghdad last October, and Paulos wanted to make sure I knew about that. So when I visited the couple in their tiny apartment this week he showed me a YouTube video about the 51 people who were killed in Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Cathedral on that bloody Sunday.

I wanted to learn more about the life Paulos and Maryam lived back in Iraq, and we did our best with their limited English, my three or four words of Arabic, and Google Translator. Paulos, 32, told me about how life in his native Mosul had deteriorated, with “people” (he refused to be specific) threatening local Christians. Mosul is in the most Christian part of Iraq, but these “people” (“you know who they are,” he said) lately were giving Christians an ultimatum: Get out or die. Occasionally, protection money would come into play, but if I understood Paulos correctly, even that was no guarantee of ultimate safety. Conversion was also an option, especially if one wanted a job.

It’s not something Paulos, a stone mason, would have considered.

“I cannot change,” he said. “I might die, but I cannot change.”

Bombings of churches and attacks on Christians escalated. One of Paulos and Maryam’s neighbors had his throat slit with a broken CD. The couple saw the body after it happened.

They ultimately moved to a nearby town, Qarah Qush, which was predominantly Christian. But bombings and attacks persisted.

“I didn’t know where else to go,” he said. “I couldn’t go to the police.”

And, he said, U.S. forces failed to protect Christian places.

So they, like so many Iraqi Christians, fled to Turkey.

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