A new charity has been launched in the UK to provide help for Iraqâ€™s ancient minority Christian community, many of whom have been forced to flee their homes.Iraqi Christians in Need (ICIN) has been set up by a group of Iraqi Christians who are concerned about the worsening plight of the countryâ€™s Christians.
Prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraqâ€™s Christian population was estimated to be around 800,000, the majority living in Baghdad or in and around Mosul in the north.
However, bombings, kidnappings and attacks, combined with worsening security and a breakdown in basic services, have forced as many as half the Christian population to flee their homes.
Some districts, such as Dora in Baghdad, have been emptied of their Christians after jihadists threatened to kill them unless they converted to Islam.
It is estimated that as many as 1.7 million Iraqis are internally displaced and nearly 2 million are refugees. Some have taken refuge in Kurdistan; others in Syria, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reported that 44 per cent of asylum seekers reaching Syria since their register started in 2003 are Christians, despite the fact that Christians form only four per cent of the Iraqi population.
ICIN is seeking to provide Christians with money for food, medicine and education. To do this, it is working through local church leaders.
Suha Rassam, ICIN trustee, and author of Christianity in Iraq, said: â€œWhile families feel safer outside Iraq, they live in overcrowded conditions and have lost their livelihoods. Some rely on help from family members abroad; others meagre state rations. They are destitute and have no future.â€