Iraqi Christians under attack in Mosul; find safety in Irbil

While Iraq as a whole is far more peaceful and safe than it was a couple of years ago, Mosul, in northern Iraq, is still plagued by violence, especially the Christians. Violence from whom? The Telegraph (UK) names the attackers as “opposing factions,” “vigilante groupss,” and “al-Qaeda fighters.”  Oh yes, and “gunmen” in the headline: “Iraqi Christians flee gunmen for sanctuary of monastery.”

…the tranquil life of Mar Matti’s black-robed monks has been shattered by the arrival of hundreds of Christians fleeing a campaign of persecution in Mosul, just 20 miles away.

Their homes raided, their priests attacked and their relatives murdered, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians have become the latest victims of violence in the city, once the most cosmopolitan in Iraq.

“First they came against the Kurds, then against the Yazidis and now they have come for the Christians,” said Jalal Mansour, 43, a former marble worker who fled to Mar Matti with his family after they were threatened by gunmen. “My uncle, an old man, was killed just because of his faith.”

….Christians believe they attracted the ire of the vigilante groups that roam Mosul’s dangerous streets when they considered a plan to take up arms themselves.

But these displaced Christians don’t need to leave Iraq.

Now they are considering a move to Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region 50 miles away where there have been no major terrorist attacks for nearly two years.

The city’s affluent Christian neighbourhood of Ainkawa was a world away from the tense atmosphere around Mosul. Happy groups of giggling teenagers sat together in the courtyard of the Chaldean church of St Joseph – the girls wearing the sort of short skirts and tight leggings that would be unthinkable in a Muslim district.

Oh, those uptight Muslims. Kind of like Puritans. But wait, maybe not:

In the Bureau for Christian Affairs, a small committee of church members were allocating menial jobs, lodging and pensions to refugees from Mosul and Baghdad.

Many of them had been forced to leave all their belongings behind. A young man with an intense, haunted stare, said he had been kidnapped in Baghdad by the Mahdi Army and tortured for seven days.

“They told me I should become a Muslim like the other Shias in that area,” he said. “They held my hands in the fire and beat me with sticks and rifle butts calling me an infidel. Finally my family negotiated my release for £7,000 and they freed me. When the police came I was too scared to tell them who took me, so I left and came to Irbil.”

You mean those vigilantes, opposing factions and al-Qaeda fighters who drove the Christians away were Muslims? Imagine that. Lucky I kept reading down to the very last paragraph. Let’s hope U.S. forces can protect the Christians in Irbil, if that’s allowed under the Sharia-compliant agreement we’ve made with the Iraqi government.

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