Saturday, April 15, 2017
THE CHRISTIAN EXODUS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST
...The largest exodus of Christians is in Iraq, where the group has been trapped in escalating sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, targeted by an Al Qaeda franchise, and forced to flee by the Islamic State. “There were 1.3 million Christians in Iraq in 2003. We’re down by a million since then,” with hundreds more leaving each month, Bashar Warda, a Chaldean bishop in the northern city of Erbil, the Kurdish capital, told me last month. He was wearing a pink zucchetto skullcap and an amaranth sash tied around his black cassock. A large silver cross hung around his neck.
Within days of its conquest of Mosul, isis issued an ultimatum to Christians to either convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant and open-ended tax, or face death “by the sword.” Homes of Christians were marked by a large “N” for “Nassarah,” a term in the Koran for Christians.
Some thirty-five thousand Christians fled. Many of their homes were ransacked and then set alight. En route to Mosul, I passed other Christian villages, like Bartella, that had also emptied. Even gravestones at the local cemetery were bullet-ridden. In all, a hundred thousand Christians from across the Biblical Nineveh Plains are estimated to have abandoned their farmlands, villages, and towns for refuge in northern Kurdistan—or beyond Iraq’s borders.
“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako told Agence France-Presse.