A Darker Iraq: Light of Christian Faith Going Out Fast

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ERBIL, Iraq -- While the Obama administration tries to figure out if targeting terrorists is worthwhile, thousands of refugees are suffering across northern Iraq.

Talk to anyone who has fled the Islamic State and they'll share their story of tragedy and suffering.

One Christian CBN News spoke to said the terrorists seized all his gold and money, then threatened to cut off his hand.

This boy was traumatized when he witnessed Islamic State fighters armed with machine guns open fire on fleeing Christians near Mosul.

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Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians now live in tents, schools, and abandoned buildings. War weary and despondent, most now say they want to leave Iraq.

"Go to America, Christians go to America. No, stay in Iraq!" one refugee woman said of the enormous decision to leave the land of their ancestors.

When Islamic State fighters seized his city, this former police officer took his family, including his newborn daughter, to safety in Erbil.

"If we return to our village, they will kill us," he said.

With passports in hand, these Iraqi Christians hope Congress will soon grant them immediate religious asylum status so they can live in the United States.

Ten families from this church, Ankawa Evangelical, have already left Iraq since the crisis began last June. That troubled Pastor Ghassan Yalda, who urged them to stay.

"This is hurting a lot because the faith that we have is that the Christians are the salt of this land and the light of this land," he said.

"If everybody leaves this country, who is going to be speaking the truth to the people who need it and who is going to be keeping this area from the wrath of the Lord because the sin is everywhere and people are killing each other?" he asked.

Those still here are reaching out to help. Here in the Kurdistan capital city of Erbil is a Christian neighborhood known as Ankawa.

It usually has a population of about 22,000 people. But with the massive influx of refugees from around the country fleeing the fighting with ISIS, the population has swelled to over 100,000 -- five times above normal.

And that is overwhelming the churches and the community here.

CBN Disaster Relief has partnered with Ankawa Evangelical to relieve some of the pressure and to bring help to Yazidis and basic food and toiletries for Christians.

"Today we're giving out clothing to the Yazidis who fled to northern Iraq," CBN Disaster Relief's Brian Scott said.

"We did this because they have very little, no money to purchase anything and they don't have anything but the clothes on their back," he said.

CBN is also providing episodes of the animated Bible series "Superbook," shown to the refugee children in their own Arabic language.

"Through the comfort of the Gospel... to show them that Christians truly love them, to be blessed and receive relief," Scott said.

The help is giving Iraqi refugees a break from their misery, providing them with some of life's basic necessities and with spiritual encouragement to last a lifetime.

Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad in Iraq's capital, spoke to CBN's Middle East Bureau Chief Christ Mitchell in Jerusalem about the plight of Iraq's Christians.

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Gary Lane

Gary Lane

CBN News Sr. International Correspondent

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