'Religicide' in Iraq
"The 'religicide' of Christians holds disturbing parallels to a previous effort to eliminate Iraqi Jews in 1948," said Open Doors USA President Carl Moeller. "Many Jews fled and today virtually nothing remains of the once-vibrant community. People of all faiths must unite to prevent this from happening again. We must fight for freedom of religion for all imperiled faith groups in Iraq."
Breakup OF Historic Church
Some 196,000 Iraqi refugees are currently registered with the U.N. and are hosted in seven Middle Eastern nations. (Christians make up about a quarter of that figure.) However, that 196,000 figure comprises only refugees with active case files with the U.N. Not all refugees are registered, and some, faced with economic hardship, travel back and forth between Iraq and their places of refuge, where they cannot legally work.
Thousands of Iraqi refugees have also been resettled in the West by the U.N. More than one-third of the 53,700 Iraqis given asylum in the U.S. since 2007 are Christians.
In recent years, some 1.3 million Iraqis from differing religious backgrounds sought shelter in Syria, while more than 500,000 fled to Jordan. The Arab neighbor states opened their doors to the bulk of fleeing Iraqis, often taxing their own health and education infrastructures. Jordan already hosts hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from successive wars with Israel. Smaller numbers of Iraqis have also gone to Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Iraqis are urban refugees. They do not live in refugee camps but must find their own accommodations. They often live off of savings or depend on relatives in the West to survive. Most are psychologically traumatized, having witnessed the killing, kidnapping, and rape of family members.
Barnabas Fund, an interdenominational Christian aid agency, estimates that Christians make up about 25 percent of the Iraqi refugee population in Syria. Archbishop Fouad Twal, the Latin Rite Patriarch of Jerusalem, says about 40,000 Iraqi Christians are in Jordan.
Despite talk of a dramatic decline in violence in Iraq after the U.S. poured in more troops in 2007 to quell civil war, Christians say their situation has not improved. Recent events support their claim.
Militants have kept up savage assaults with scores of roadside bombings and mortar attacks following a brutal massacre inside Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation cathedral in late October.
Three days after the massacre, Uday Hikmat and his parents packed and left Iraq for Amman, the capital of Jordan. "We did not want to wait our turn to die," said the 33-year-old. They were joined by scores of other Iraqi Christians.
Baghdad and Mosul are the two Iraqi regions where a Christian population has resided since the first century A.D., when, according to tradition, the apostle Thomas introduced the gospel there. Most Iraqi Christians are Chaldean Eastern-rite Catholics who are autonomous from Rome but recognize the pope's authority. Also present are Assyrian, Roman, and Syrian Catholics; Greek, Syrian, and Armenian Orthodox; and Presbyterians, Anglicans, and many evangelicals.
The war against Christians began in 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq. The violence has included threats, kidnappings, bombings, murder—and now menacing cell-phone text messages. Militants accuse Iraqi Christians of collaborating with American and other Western troops—dubbed "invaders and occupiers"—despite the fact that the Iraqi Christians have lived in the region since the first century.