First Published: 2014-04-26

Dwindling Christian community faces ‘disaster’ in Iraq
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako says daily migration of Christians from Iraq is ‘terrifying’ and blames range of factors.
Middle East Online

Fewer than 400,000 Christians across country

KIRKUK - Iraq's dwindling Christian community faces "disaster," and if no action is taken they will number just a few thousand in a decade, the country's most senior church leader said.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako said the daily migration of Christians from Iraq was "terrifying" and blamed a range of factors, including generally poor security in the country and worsening religious extremism.

Iraq's Christian community is a shadow of what it used to be -- once numbering more than a million nationwide, with upwards of 600,000 in Baghdad alone, there are now fewer than 400,000 across the country.

"The daily migration of Christians from Iraq is terrifying and very worrying," Sako said from the ethnically-mixed northern city of Kirkuk on Friday evening.

"The church is facing a disaster, and if the situation continues along this course, our numbers in the coming 10 years will be not more than a few thousand."

Sako blamed worsening security and religious extremism, and cited death threats against Christians and the forcible seizure of their property by armed gangs purporting to be members of powerful militias.

He also reiterated criticism of "Western countries who encourage migration of Christians."

The church leader spoke after visiting Christian communities nationwide.

Though not explicitly targeted as they were in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion, Christians are among those suffering from the recent upsurge in violence across Iraq.

In addition to the bloodshed, they are vulnerable to pressure from armed groups, with local NGOs reporting several homes belonging to Christians having been forcibly seized.

Though others have suffered similar fates, Christian have been disproportionately targeted for reasons to do with tribal politics and because of the high number who have fled.

Because Christians do not retain tribal affiliations in the way Muslim Arabs do, they have little recourse for resolving disputes outside the Iraqi legal system, which is often criticised for corruption and subject to manipulation.

 

US, Arab allies unleash deadly strikes against IS jihadists in Syria

New Gaza truce talks set for end of October

Libya parliament approves Thani’s cabinet lineup

Arab Bank found liable for backing terrorism

Qatar ‘will not host’ 2022 World Cup: Blame it on temperatures!

Israel kills 2 Palestinians suspected of murdering three teens

Bahrain sets November 22 date for parliament vote

Kuwaiti acquits 67 stateless protesters

French PM: 'No discussion' with Algeria hostage-takers

US-led strikes target IS jihadists in Syria

World leaders confront crises on many fronts at UN

Kurds slow jihadist advance on key border town in northern Syria

Mossad launches new website to recruit potential spooks

Saudi second Crown Prince: We must protect our youth from ‘forces of darkness’

Australia to join US-led air campaign in Iraq

Freed to be rearrested: Palestinian prisoners plan hunger strike

Lebanon describes abuse of Syria detainees as ‘isolated incident’

Abadi opposes foreign ground intervention in Iraq

Algeria army eliminates ‘terrorist chief’ in Kabylie region

Huthi rebels hold key Sanaa offices after hard-won peace deal

Better safe than sorry: EU boosts security after jihadist threat

Iran conducts arrests over ‘SMS Khomeini insults’

Rouhani: Iran cornerstone of stability in Mideast

4 Saudis sentenced to death in 'bloodiest terror' cell

Australia’s Howard 'embarrassed' US intel on Iraq WMD unfounded

IS urges Muslims to kill citizens from US-led coalition

Over 130,000 Syrian Kurds flee to Turkey

South Sudan peace talks resume in Ethiopia

Iraq loses communication with soldiers near Fallujah

Palestinians intensive diplomatic campaign on three fronts

Rival Yemen groups sign UN-brokered deal

US discusses IS militant threat with arch-foe Iran

Turkey's PKK urges fellow Kurds to fight IS jihadists in Syria

UN warns over 'forcible transfer' of Palestinian Bedouin

Syria denies use of chlorine chemicals

Court verdict paves way for release of activist Mahienour el-Massry

IS fighters lay siege to Syria Kurdish town of Ain al-Arab

Huthi seditious plans come out in open: Capture of government HQ in Sanaa

Israel steps up cyber-defense with new national body

Egypt military aircraft crashes after technical failure

Erdogan confesses: Turkey held ‘diplomatic negotiations’ with Islamic State

Pope denounces Islamic State: Religion cannot be used to justify violence!

Solution according to Huthis: Deal in Saada and battles in Sanaa

Bloody attack strikes outside Egypt Foreign Ministry in Cairo

Mediators denounce ‘senseless fighting’ in South Sudan