Thousands of Christians Flee, Fearing Rising Islamic Fundamentalism

September 30, 2004

Source: News Service

On September 30, 2004 the Religion News Service reported, "Iraqi Christians flocked to the Latin Catholic church in the Hashmi district of the Jordanian capital, a drab working-class area, where they celebrated Mass in the ancient Chaldean language. On a recent Sunday, some 200 worshippers packed the sanctuary, which is adorned with a simple wooden cross and a picture of the Virgin and Christ. Here, away from their native country, these Iraqi Christians felt safe. Fearing lawlessness and rising Islamic fundamentalism in their own country, large numbers of Iraqi Christians are fleeing to neighboring Jordan and Syria. No one knows for certain how many of Iraq's 750,000 Christians have left the country since the removal of Saddam Hussein, but estimates are in the tens of thousands. The level of mistreatment Christians face in Iraq is disputed, even among Christians themselves, but no one can deny the fear, which is palpable among those crossing the border. Church bombings in Baghdad and Mosul only fuel that fear, but so do individual stories, even though few can be substantiated outside of Iraq."