Peace would stem exodus, say Iraqi Christians

PEACE AND security in Iraq represents the only sure way to stop a wave of emigration that has seen the country’s Christian community fall from an estimated 1.5 million in the 1980s to about 400,000 today, according to a group of Iraqi Christians attending a Vatican synod on the Middle East.
Speaking to journalists on the margins of a two-week long synod entitled The Catholic Church in the Middle East, Communion and Witness, Fr Sameer Shaba Maroki, professor of eastern theology in Babel College, Ankawa, said the major reason for the mass emigration was fear of violence and kidnapping. “Fear is the first cause. We lived through very difficult times during the embargo when people were earning as little as $1.50 per month but people stayed.
“Now they are frightened because of the kidnapping and the ransoms asked and the fact that people pay ransoms but do not recover the person . . . It is true as well that Christians are easy targets in today’s Iraq”.
Bishop Shlemon Warduni, the Chaldean patriarchal vicar of Baghdad, stressed that the climate of fear was “the same for everyone”, Christian or Muslim, given the unacceptable level of daily violence in the country.