Watchdog Urges US Not to Forget About Persecuted Christians in Iraq

As violence against Christian minorities continues in Mosul, Iraq, Carl Moeller of Open Doors USA worries that the U.S. has turned its focus away from these persecuted Christians, as the U.S. no longer has a military presence in the Middle Eastern country.

Moeller, president/CEO of human rights watchdog Open Doors USA, calls the continued violence against Christians in Mosul a "religicide," saying in a recent statement: "Christians in cities like Baghdad and Mosul are gripped by terrorism. They are fleeing in droves. [On August 16] it was reported that at least 20 people died in blasts and shootings across the country."

The violence began in 2003, when U.S. military forces overthrew Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The subsequent U.S. occupation of Iraq resulted in immense violence between Christians, the minority in the country, and Muslims.

As a result, 50,000 Christians have emigrated from Mosul since 2003, moving to nearby Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Turkey, and Jordan.

Moeller told The Christian Post that the violence in Mosul has been a "huge human rights crisis for several years now."

"With the spotlight currently on Syria, Nigeria and Afghanistan and the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq last December, Iraq has been placed on the back-burner. But we as Christians in the West must continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq, who face extinction if we don't pray and advocate for them," Moeller said.

Currently, Christians in Syria are suffering persecution as the country endures one of the most gruesome civil wars in history.

The irony in this, according to Moeller, is that several of the Christians living in Syria initially fled Iraq to escape violence, but have found themselves in even more dire straits as they struggle to stay alive during Syria's civil war.

"Many people don't realize that the Christians from Iraq who fled to Syria are caught in that violence too," Moeller told CP.

Recent reports indicate that violence against Christians in Mosul is escalating.

In 2008, terrorists killed 40 Christians and forced 10,000 Christians to flee their homes in the Mosul area, according to the watchdog.

In May 2012, news agencies reported that 20 Christian families living in Mosul had received threatening letters urging them to move out of the area.

As Open Doors reports, the current number of Christians remaining in Iraq is an estimated 345,000, but the organization says that number is decreasing every month.

Iraq sits at the No. 9 ranking on the Open Doors' 2012 World Watch List, which ranks countries based on their level of persecution of Christians.

"We just need to remember from time to time that somebody's got to do something. We have state department officials who are reluctant to address issues because the U.S. Army isn't there," Moeller told CP regarding the continued violence in Mosul.

Moeller concluded by saying that "Open Doors is committed to providing the basic needs of the community that are necessary, including food, clothing, shelter, spiritual help, Bibles, and materials," but what people need most is trauma counseling for the "unspeakable violence against their families and their homes."

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