A quiet but steady hemorrhaging of Iraq’s ancient Christian presence is underway and little is being doWritten threats, kidnappings, bombings and murder by Muslim extremists are driving thousands of Iraq’s minority Christian population out of their ancestral homeland, fleeing for safety to neighboring Jordan and Syria.ne to stem the flow.
“The Christians are experiencing an absence of leadership,” explained Hala Hikmat, a recent arrival from Baghdad who has joined thousands of her countrymen in Syria. “We have no leaders who are communicating our urgent needs to the authorities, so consequently each person has to take care of themselves.” Their urgent needs, as expressed by Hikmat, are for protection and for a stand to be taken on Christians’ behalf.
A string of church bombings in August and September sent anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 Christians fleeing the country, according to estimates by Iraqi government and church officials. And they admit that hundreds more families out of Iraq’s 750,000 Christians are leaving each week.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) disputes these figures, saying they are too high. But UNHCR offices in Amman and Damascus admit that it is hard to know exactly how many Iraqi Christians are currently in Jordan and Syria.
Of the 4,000 Iraqi families officially registered as refugees with the agency in Damascus, more than half are Christians. It is believed that there are larger numbers of Iraqis in Syria because it is cheaper to live there than in Jordan. Iraqi Christians also said they have stronger cultural and spiritual ties to Syria. Syrian authorities estimate there are about 300,000 Iraqis in the country.