Iraqi Christians flee homes amid militant push
ICC Note: The last decade has shown an increasing level of Christians fleeing Iraq to take refuge from the violence they receive. This past month has been no exception as the militant group, ISIS, storms through Iraq. The past 11 years has seen the Christian population diminish by almost 50%. Many are refusing to ever return to their homes.
ICC has launched a campaign to provide aid to the Iraqi church to assist those in need who have fled from the attacks. Go here to find out more and donate: Iraqi Crisis Response
06/18/14 Iraq (Boston Globe) – Over the past decade, Iraqi Christians have fled repeatedly to this ancient mountainside village, seeking refuge from violence, then returning home when the danger eased. Now they are doing it again as Islamic militants rampage across northern Iraq, but this time few say they ever want to go back to their homes.
The flight is a new blow to Iraq’s dwindling Christian community, which is almost as old as the religion itself but has been diminished since the 2003 US-led invasion.
During the past 11 years, at least half of the country’s Christian population has fled the country, according to some estimates, to escape frequent attacks by Sunni militants targeting them and their churches. Now many of those who held out and remained may be giving up completely after fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria swept over the city of Mosul and a broad swath of the country the past week.
‘‘I’m not going back,’’ said Lina, who fled Mosul with her family as the militants swept in and came to Alqosh, about 30 miles to the north.
‘‘Each day we went to bed in fear,’’ the 57-year-old woman said, sitting in a house for displaced people. ‘‘In our own houses we knew no rest.’’ Like other Christians who fled here, she spoke on condition she would be identified only by her first name for fear for her safety.
In leaving, the Christians are emptying out communities that date back to the first centuries of the religion, including Chaldean, Assyrian, and Armenian churches.
The past week, some 160 Christian families — mostly from Mosul — fled to Alqosh, mayor Sabri Boutani said, consulting first on the number with his wife by speaking in Chaldean, the ancient language spoken by many residents.
Alqosh, dating back at least to the first century BC, is a jumble of pastel-painted homes nestled at the base of a high craggy hill among rolling plains of wheat fields. The village’s population of 6,000 is about half Christian and half ethnic Kurds. Located just outside the autonomous Kurdish zone of northern Iraq, Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga have moved into the town to protect it.