Iraq: emergency help for Christians fleeing persecution

full_173191.jpgBy: John Pontifex
Attacks on Christians in Iraq have escalated in recent weeks, with hundreds of families fleeing persecution in Mosul and Baghdad. Aid to the Church in Need is providing emergency aid which is being distributed by the Chaldean Sisters of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, like Sister Merna (pictured).

The charity has agreed a payment of £12,650 for victims of the 31 October massacre at Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Church which left up to 58 dead and more than 70 injured. A further £8,450 will be sent to poverty-stricken Christians from Baghdad who have fled to the Iraqi cities of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. And in Zakho diocese, in the far north of the country, Aid to the Church in Need is giving £21,100 to provide food packages for hundreds of Christian families.

The announcement comes amid reports that 500 Christian families – more than 2,000 people – have fled Baghdad and Mosul in the past few weeks amid continuing violence and intimidation.

Yesterday (Monday) reports emerged that Hekmet Jaboure Samak and his wife, Samira, an elderly Christian couple from Baghdad’s Bealdeyat district, had been killed in their home. Church sources in Baghdad told the charity that the attackers broke into the home where the couple had been living for many years. After killing the two Christians, the attackers comprehensively looted their home. “Everything was taken,” the Church source said.

Speaking from northern Iraq, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil thanked ACN for its continuing help, saying that Christians were now very afraid. He said: “The Christians in Baghdad and Mosul do not have a dignified life. They feel afraid even in their own home. They cannot move freely. They have to think twice about going to church on Sundays.”

Archbishop Warda added: “People would leave immediately if they could. The only thing that is stopping them is that in many cases they are poor and if they left they would struggle to find a job, schools for their children and a home to live in.”

The archbishop said that estate agents in Baghdad are reducing the value of properties owned by Christians, which means that if they sell up, they will struggle to find a decent alternative home.

Helping Christians in the Middle East is a priority for Aid to the Church in Need. Pope Benedict XVI has urged the charity to focus on supporting the region’s faithful, where he said “the local Church is threatened in its very existence”.