Persecuted Christians Fret as US Iraq Pullout Nears

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Persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq has only intensified since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2003.

Tens of thousands of Christians have fled their homeland to escape the growing pressures from Muslim extremists.
    
Now, those left behind are wondering how the upcoming U.S. troop pullout will affect them.

Ethnic Cleansing?

Many Christians have lost their lives while others have watched their churches burn to the ground.

Sabha Basheer lost her husband when Sunni insurgents kidnapped him, beat him, and then choked him to death.

Tom Doyle, vice president and Middle East director with the ministry E-3 Partners, spoke to CBN News about the difficulties Iraq's Christians are facing.  Click play for his comments on the future of the church there.
    
His crime: being a member of Iraq's tiny Christian community.

"We are glad that Saddam is gone," she said. "But I must tell you that at least we felt safe back then.  No one ever dared to attack us. Now we are being killed."

Iraqi Christian activist George Mayah minced no words, calling the violence against believers "ethnic cleansing."

"There are people and groups behind the scenes that we cannot see who want to drive the Christians out of Iraq," he said. "This is nothing short of an ethnic cleansing of a specific group of people."

Christian Militias

To protect themselves, some Iraqi Christians have taken extreme measures by forming a new militia.
    
Armed with heavy machine guns and assault rifles, Christians in a tiny village outside of Mosul, like Bashir Saalem, have taken an oath to protect their fellow believers.

"We are not like other militias that have sprung up across Iraq," Saalem explained. "We don't go out killing people and causing chaos.  We stand here with our guns just to protect our people."

"The terrorists want to kill us Christians," said Abu Mahath, another militiaman. "If we don't defend ourselves, who will?"

Before the U.S.-led invasion, there were about a million Christians in Iraq.  They lived in relative security, free to worship and build churches.

However, a 2009 report from the U.S. State Department shows that number may have dropped to as few as 500,000.

*Originally posted October 28, 2011.    

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