Christians in Iraq continue to flee in face of killings, bombings

.- The release of eight kidnapped Christians on Friday was welcomed by Iraq’s Christian community. However, numerous other Christians continue to be killed or driven out of their homeland by the increasing violence and killings.

The violence has precipitated a mass exodus, with some 2.2 million Iraqis now residing outside the country and another two million internally displaced, according to a June 5 briefing of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to the UN, about 50,000 Iraqis are displaced by the violence each month, fleeing to Iraq's relatively stable northern region, in and around Mosul. But recent kidnappings and murders of Christians in and around Mosul, as well as the skyrocketing cost of living, make the north less than appealing for many. So others have fled to Syria or Jordan.

A middle-aged Chaldean couple from Hai Al-Jamiyah district told Compass that they were forced to leave home with only the clothes on their backs when militants planted a sound bomb beside their car. Area residents spoke of how Christians should leave the area, said the couple, whose own children and grandson left two months prior.

The husband and wife said that even though local militias had not demanded that they pay jizya, an Islamic tax exacted from non-Muslims under Muslim rule, they felt their lives were threatened all the same. After their car was bombed, they said that armed gunmen had forced them to leave home without any of their possessions.

On June 12, Fouad Salim, a 32-year-old husband and father of two, was killed by militants as he left his work at a police station in Razaliyah because he refused to convert to Islam, reported the Assyrian International News Agency.

Christian Iraqi website Ankawa.com reported on June 17 that militants in Baghdad's Amariyah district had set off a bomb in the garden of a Christian home, forcing the family to leave.

Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly strongly condemned U.S. forces in May after they had occupied the church's seminary and college in Dora last April, though some church leaders felt troop presence would keep away looters. The buildings had stood empty since staff relocated classes to the northern village of Ankawa for security reasons.

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