ICC Note: After more than 1,500 years, Iraq’s Christian community appears on the verge of being completely wiped out. Some 200,000 perhaps 50% of the entire community in Iraq has fled to the Kurdish controlled region of Northern Iraq. Many of them fear that they’ll never be able to return home as their houses are still occupied by the militants of ISIS. While the U.S. and others are preparing to wage war against ISIS the Christian community remains fearful for their future.
09/14/2014 Iraq (AFP) – Threats by jihadists have sent a fresh wave of Christians fleeing their Iraqi homeland, bustling from exodus to exodus in search of a safe haven to rebuild their lives
Raja Marzina, who has taken refuge in Jordan with her husband and their five children, never imagined she would one day have to leave Iraq for good.
“But we had no choice; we had to flee to save our lives and our religion,” she said.
Like dozens of others who fled the orgy of violence unleashed by Islamic State (IS) jihadists this summer, Marzina goes to the Syriac Catholics Virgin Mary church in Amman for prayers and to discuss the latest events back home.
IS militants between June and August seized Mosul, Iraq’s second city that was home to a sizeable Christian community, and Qaraqosh, the country’s largest Christian town.
Jordan is the transit point for Iraqis waiting to emigrate to North America or Europe, after a stopover in the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
“Around 70 percent of the Christians of Iraq have left their country over the past 20 years because of its successive wars and conflicts,” said Wael Suleiman, the Jordan director of the Catholic relief organisation Caritas.
It was estimated their were one million Iraqi Christians before the wave of emigration began, with Baghdad once home to 600,000 of them.
The number of Christians in Iraq has been declining ever since the 2003 US-led invasion and the insurgencies that followed.
“The final straw for those who stayed behind in Iraq came when the extremists seized control of their regions, sending almost 200,000 into flight to Kurdistan,” said Suleiman.
In the ancient, pre-Islamic Christian heartland of Iraq, IS captured Mosul, a city of 30 churches, some dating back 1,500 years, before also taking over neighboring Christian towns and villages.
Its campaign of what the United Nations condemned as “ethnic and religious cleansing” left Christians with the stark choice of converting to Islam, paying a special tax for protection or leaving on pain of death.