Iraqi Christians Flee Country For Safety

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More than half of Iraq's Christians have fled their country since the start of the war.
Many of them are still not returning home because of sectarian violence targeting Christians.
The last official Iraqi census in 1987 showed almost 1.5 million Christians in Iraq.

Now, a U.S. State Department report says that number may have dropped to close to one third of that at 500,000.

Signs of the exodus can be seen in the empty pews inside St. Joseph's church in the middle-class Baghdad neighbourhood of Karradah where Father Mario Ebararan is the preist.

"Why do all Iraqi Christians want to leave to go abroad?" Ebararan asked. "They want to leave because the situation is too difficult here in Iraq. Life is so difficult here. No jobs, problems in the streets. There is fear among Christians."

Under Saddam Hussein, Christians in Iraq could became doctors, engineers, land owners, and civil servants. Today they face discrimination from the present government. But it was the terrorist violence after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 that created a flood of Christians leaving the country.

"The situation was very insecure. There was no protection for us, a matter that led to so many of us emigrating from Iraq. So many Christians were killed and targeted," Saad Adwar a Christian resident said.

In March of 2008, the body of Mosul's Chaldean Archbishop was found in a shallow grave after he was kidnapped. Last week the body of a 5-year-old Christian child kidnapped a week earlier was found by police.

Many Iraqi Christians have now settled in Jordan.

Feryal Yashou is a former resident of Baghdad.

"In the meantime, it's impossible. It's very hard, despite their saying the security situation is getting better. But for us as Christians it will never be safe," Yashou said.

As a result, few Iraqi Christians contemplate going back, according to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees.

"There is prevalent violence, human rights violations and persecution of people for different reasons, for religious reasons, for political reasons, and so on," William Spindler, UNHCR spokesman said. "So Christians, as well as other ethnic and religious minorities, are at particular risk in Iraq."

*Originally aired May 29, 2009.

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CBN News
Dale Hurd

Dale Hurd

CBN News Sr. Reporter

A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at