As the Christian community in Iraq copes with the unprecedented bombings of five churches in early August, people in Baghdad say it's essential that Western Christians persevere and continue to help.
"Lots of support has just dried up," said Andrew White, Middle East envoy for the archbishop of Canterbury, from Baghdad. "We need a long-term commitment. There is so much to do."
In the attacks, 11 people were killed and dozens more were injured. An Iraqi official estimated that 40,000 Christians had fled the country in the two weeks after the bombings. White said that number is "vastly over-exaggerated. The majority of Christians here are resolved to stick it out."
Though White and many others are trying to help Iraqi Christians, the security situation is bad. Links to move aid in haven't developed as quickly or broadly as many planned last year after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government. Iraqi Christians had hoped that a new era of full religious freedom might be on the way.
Martin Manna, executive director of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, in Farmington Hills, Michigan, is lobbying Congress to help Iraqi Christians. One effort is the Nineveh Plains Project. This would provide U.S. money to rebuild communities in the region.
Currently, the United States doesn't allow Chaldean Catholics—Iraq's largest Christian group—to come here as political refugees, although about 40,000 Iraqi Shi'a Muslims were granted asylum in 1991. While all parties involved want to help Iraqi Christians, they worry that opening the door to America may permanently weaken an already shrinking community. There are an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 Christians in Iraq, which represents ...1