Only 57 Churches Left in Iraq; From 300 in 2003
Iraq had 300 churches and 1.4 million Christians in 2003, but now only 57 churches and about half a million Christians remain with members of the minority fleeing Islamist attacks, according to local reports.
Patriarch Louis Sako of the Chaldean Church told Mideast Christian News the remaining 57 churches also continue to be targeted. The number of Christians has fallen from about 1,400,000 in 2003 to nearly half a million now, added William Warda, the head of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, a registered local non-governmental organization.
This means more than two-thirds have emigrated, Warda said. "The last ten years have been the worst for Iraqi Christians because they bore witness to the biggest exodus and migration in the history of Iraq."
The attack on Our Lady of Deliverance Church by extremists, and other attacks in 2010, contributed to Christians fleeing abroad, according to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
Iraqi Christians, one of the oldest communities in the world, have faced several bomb attacks, killings, abduction, torture, and forcible conversion to Islam ever since the U.S.-led liberation war began in 2003.
Around 75 percent of the Iraqi population is Arab, and roughly 15 percent is Kurd. Over 95 percent of all Iraqis are Muslim – 65 percent Shi'a and 35 percent Sunni.
Iraq's politics had largely been dominated by the Arab Sunnis until the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, following which the federal government of Iraq was governed by Shi'ite parties led by the Islamic Dawa Party.
Christians have not only been targeted for their faith by al-Qaeda and related terror groups, but they are also caught in the crossfire of the Arab-Kurd and Shi'a-Sunni conflicts, which rose to new heights after the 2003 U.S. operations.
"The large blocs, unfortunately, have worked to confiscate political decisions in the country after the change, and the changes brought by the Americans did not depend on size, but capacity," a prominent Christian politician, Youkhanna Kanna, was quoted as saying.
"Christians in Iraq, a proportion of all the Christians in the Middle East, are the main builders of this region at all levels and in all fields. They have unquestionably played a significant role in modern Iraq, but what happened after the change is that the sectarian and ethnic system of quotas has allowed large-sized blocs to monopolize political decisions," Kanna said.
The United States should "streamline its Iraq policy to deal with the failure of the federal and Kurdistan governments to protect Christians and other minorities, and to ensure enactment of special laws to prevent impunity after incidents of religiously motivated violence," the World Evangelical Alliance has said.