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.

 

16 killed in Israeli shelling of UN school in Gaza

Islamists capture key Benghazi army base

US plans largest ever sale of lethal missiles to Iraq

Mosul’s residents rise up against jihadists

Qatar invests in Israeli soccer

Militants fire at Tunisia army helicopter

Italian fire-fighting planes to come to Libya rescue

Syria rebels advance towards Hama military airport

Bloodshed in Gaza surges amid no truce

Major western powers call for Libya ceasefire

US-Israeli ties sink to new depths over Gaza war

UN warns buying oil from terrorists could lead to sanctions

Air Algerie crash black boxes sent to France

Warning of Tripoli catastrophe after huge oil depot blaze

US, UN call for immediate Gaza ceasefire

Egypt army kills 14 jihadists in restive Sinai Peninsula

Calls for temporary Gaza ceasefire fall on deaf ears

Yemen army foils new Qaeda attempt to seize military posts

Investigators need ‘few days’ to probe cause of Algeria plane crash

Tunisia army suffers more losses in open war with terrorism

Jihadists advance amid escalation in Syria anti-regime offensive

Iraq Shiite militia takes bloody revenge against ‘Islamic State’ in Baquba

Fierce clashes kill at least 38 people in Benghazi

Israel resumes devastating military assault on Gaza

Thousands face famine as food security situation worsens in Somalia

Death toll in Gaza climbs as fragile ceasefire reveals destruction

Egypt summons Turkey charge d'affaires for second time in one week

‘Islamic State’ jihadists dynamite Shiite shrine in Mosul

US evacuates embassy staff in Libya over ‘real risk’

Investigators begin 'difficult' probe into Air Algerie plane disaster

Armed men snatch Head of Baghdad Provincial Council

‘Islamic State’ beheads Syrian soldiers in Raqa

Kerry in Paris for talks on long-term Gaza truce

Hezbollah chief speaks out on Gaza

Two rival Islamic states in Syria power struggle

Crete protest against Syria chemicals destruction in Mediterranean

74 killed in IS assault on Syria regime territory

Iran confirms arrest of Washington Post correspondent

Somali 'Shebab commanders' killed in AU offensive

Paris: survivors of Air Algerie jet crash 'unlikely'

Jordan shots down drone near Syria border

Gaza civilian toll spiralling to above 800

UN urges Europe to tackle Mediterranean migrant crisis

From Israel with ‘virus’: Death threat letter reaches Palestinian mission in France

Ordeal of ‘apostasy’ woman ends with departure from Sudan