Unfortunately, Iraq remains a perilous place for Christians. Reports McClatchy:
For 35-year-old Rajo Qardaq Palander, a church security guard, the breaking point came last year, when insurgents demanded that he pay $20,000 or abandon his home in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood.
The choice was easy. He slipped out of Dora in the dead of night, joining the exodus of Assyrian Christians from Baghdad and Mosul to this haven in Iraq’s Kurdish-controlled north.
“I held on as long as I could,” Palander, 35 said. “I have no future in Iraq.”
One of Iraq’s most ancient national groups, the Assyrian Christians, who’re Eastern Orthodox Christians, have largely quit their ancestral home in Arab Iraq and fled to the Kurdish region, where tens of thousands now live, or abroad.
The pressure on the Assyrians continues: Five churches were bombed in Baghdad in early July and killings continue in Mosul. In Ainkawa, a city of 40,000 on the outskirts of the main city of Irbil, there’s sanctuary, castle-like churches, which dominate entire city blocks, and liquor, a trade that Christians dominated in Baghdad, is for sale openly.
Still, refugees and others who’re choosing to stay in Iraq fear the days ahead. They’re hoping to make political gains in Iraq’s Kurdish provinces and to reclaim lost land.
“For the time being, it’s a better place. But it’s a dark future,” said Father Isha Najiba, an Eastern Assyrian priest in Ainkawa who served in Dora until 2002.
As many as half of Iraq’s Christians have been driven from their homes, many to Jordan and Syria. No one knows how many will be able to return, if ever. The destruction of Iraq’s historic Christian community remains one of the great tragedies of the war.
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