Open Doors official reports many Iraqi Christians fleeing northward

Allie Martin and Jody Brown
A minister at-large with Open Doors International says conditions for Christians in Iraq continue to intensify. Some of those Iraqi Christians who are forced to flee their homes because of Muslim terrorists, says Paul Estabrooks, are finding better conditions in the northern part of the country.

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Recently, the international ministry organization reported on an Iraqi Christian dentist who received a letter which chastised him for not being a Muslim. The letter included a DVD, which showed the beheading of an Iraqi Christian, whom the dentist knew. Paul Estabrooks, a minister at-large with Open Doors, says the beheading may be an isolated incident, but Christians face persecution throughout Iraq.

“It’s not only happening in Baghdad, it also has happened in Mosul, which is in the northwest — actually the area which we knew as Nineveh in the story of Jonah,” notes Estabrooks. “That area has also had Christians threatened. [T]hose who have businesses there have been forced to pay money in order to survive.”

And for some, says the ministry, the only alternative is to leave. For example, the ministry reported in late June that of 50 Christian families in one Baghdad neighborhood, the remaining two were forced to flee after their car was bombed. One of those families reported being forced by armed gunmen, after the car bombing, to leave home without any of their possessions.

Estabrooks points out that Christians can find safety in parts of northern Iraq, which is more stable and economically feasible. “There is a fair bit of stability and real economic growth and development [there], and the northern Kurds are not happy with the extremist Muslims,” he notes.

“In fact, I was in a city called Dahok a year and a half ago,” the ministry spokesman continues, “and they showed me a house there where some al-Qaida operatives tried to move in and set up an extremist group — and the people of the city just drove them right out of town.”

Open Doors helps refugees who flee daily to northern Iraq. Evidently many of them do not stop there, choosing to continue on to neighboring countries. Recent figures from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees show some 2.2 million Iraqis now residing outside the country. Those numbers, reported in June, include an exceptionally high percentage of Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria and Jordan, though the group only constitutes about three percent of Iraq’s population.