Iraqi Christians in Lebanon face uncertain future

Azzaman, November 29, 2008

Thousands of Iraqi Christians who have sought refuge in Lebanon live in squalor conditions and with no papers regularizing their stay.

The Lebanese authorities refuse to give them even temporary residence permits. They are denied access to public amenities and their children cannot join public schools.

There are no exact numbers on Iraqi Christians in Lebanon, but church sources put them at tens of thousands.

There are more than one million Iraqi refugees in neighboring Syria. But the Syrian authorities issue them temporary residence permits, which gives them the right to benefit from public amenities including health and education.

A new wave of Christian refugees of several thousands people has landed in Syria and Lebanon following the upsurge in anti-Christian violence in the northern city of Mosul.

Some 16 Christians have been killed in the city and more than 2,500 families are said to have fled to safer areas in Iraq or Syria.

Those in Lebanon rely on donations from aid organizations and groups. A recent meeting bringing Middle East Catholic Patriarchs together in Beirut urged the world community and particularly the Iraqi government to protect Christian minorities in Iraq.

No group has openly claimed responsibility for the anti-Christian campaign in Mosul which has almost emptied the city of its Christian population