Half of all Christians have fled Iraq since 2003, says Baghdad bishop
Published: August 3, 2006
LONDON (CNS) -- Half of all Iraqi Christians have fled their country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, said the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad. Chaldean Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Andreos Abouna of Baghdad said that before the invasion there were about 1.2 million Christians in the predominantly Shiite Muslim state. Since then the overall number has dropped to about 600,000, he said. "What we are hearing now is the alarm bell for Christianity in Iraq," the bishop said. "When so many are leaving from a small community like ours, you know that it is dangerous -- dangerous for the future of the church in Iraq." The bishop said 75 percent of Christians from Baghdad had fled the capital to escape the almost daily outbreaks of sectarian violence. Since the beginning of the war, the number of Chaldean Catholics, who make up the country's most numerous Christian denomination, had dropped below half a million from 800,000, he said. Many sought new lives mostly in the neighboring countries of Syria, Jordan and Turkey, he added. Bishop Abouna said he thought it was unlikely that many of those who had emigrated would return. Bishop Abouna spoke Aug. 1 from Iraq with Aid to the Church in Need UK, a Catholic charity that supports the Chaldean Catholic community in Iraq. About 97 percent of the country's total 27 million Iraqis are Shiite and Sunni Muslims; Christians make up the majority of the remaining 3 percent. The Chaldean Catholics speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
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