Iraqi Christians targeted
Hundreds of Iraq’s professed Christians have fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul this autumn following a wave of killings and intimidation aimed against them. Officials in the largely Kurdish city say that a dozen Christians have been killed, causing hundreds of fearful families to take refuge in outlying villages.
Mosul is Iraq’s third-largest city and lies about 250 miles north-west of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient city of Nineveh. It has been the scene of fierce fighting and terrorist attacks during the present unrest in the country.
The provincial governor accused extremist al-Qaeda groups of staging a campaign against Christians and has called on the Iraqi government and US forces to help defend this vulnerable community.
Mosul, like other major Iraqi cities, has witnessed big security operations aimed at displacing insurgents and imposing law and order. But while the operations have improved security in cities like Baghdad and Basra, the situation in Mosul seems to be worsening.
Mosul’s Christians have been particularly exposed to violence. Their archbishop was abducted and murdered in March. Now, they seem to be falling prey to a campaign of killings aimed specifically at them.
Mosul has the highest proportion of Christians of all the Iraqi cities, and contains several old churches dating back to the early centuries of Christianity. In 2003, when coalition forces entered Iraq, there were estimated to be around 800,000 Christians in the country. However, following years of attacks and church bombings both in Mosul and Baghdad, at least one-third of the Christian community is believed to have fled abroad.