MOSUL, Iraq, Zenit.org).- The Church’s youngest archbishop is asking for prayers as more and more of his faithful leave Mosul because of a violent intimidation campaign that has brought four Christian deaths this week.
Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona, 42, who has served as the head of the Mosul Archdiocese for less than a month, told Aid to the Church in Need today that the city’s few remaining Christians are panicked. Under the pressures of a politically-motivated campaign to force Christians out of the city, many have fled.
Archbishop Nona, whose predecessor was kidnapped and killed in 2008, said if the situation does not improve, the ancient Christian community will disappear.
“If the situation continues as it has done, especially over the past few days, all the people will leave. It is very difficult to live in this kind of situation,” he told the charity group. “It is panic — panic always. The Christians donâ€™t know what will happen to them — it is the same everywhere: in the office, at school or even at home. They donâ€™t know if somebody is going to kill them.”
This week, a 20-year-old student teacher, an engineering student, and two traders have been killed in Mosul. Another student was injured. Another man was kidnapped from his home.
Archbishop Nona confirmed the attacks had prompted more Christians to leave the city, saying that Wednesday alone, he received news of up to 10 families fleeing Mosul.
In 2000, as many as 5,000 Christian families lived in Mosul. They have endured multiple attacks, particularly in September 2008, after which about half the Christian population fled the city. Many of those subsequently returned.
Still, according to the prelate, Mosul is the most dangerous place for Iraqi Christians.
He said there is a concerted effort to force Christians to leave the city, though he admits, “We donâ€™t know who is behind the attacks.”
“We think that they are politically-motivated — that some group has something to gain if all Christians go,” Archbishop Nona said.
He added that Mosul authorities have claimed it is impossible to improve security conditions for Christians, though Church leaders have repeatedly requested it.
The archbishop affirmed: “We desperately need you to pray for us.”