Iraq's dwindling Christian community faces "disaster," and if no action
is taken they will number just a few thousand in a decade, the
country's most senior church leader told AFP.
Patriarch Louis Sako said the daily migration of Christians from Iraq
was "terrifying" and blamed a range of factors, including generally poor
security in the country and worsening religious extremism.
Christian community is a shadow of what it used to be -- once numbering
more than a million nationwide, with upwards of 600,000 in Baghdad
alone, there are now fewer than 400,000 across the country.
daily migration of Christians from Iraq is terrifying and very
worrying," Sako told AFP from the ethnically-mixed northern city of
Kirkuk on Friday evening.
"The church is facing a disaster, and if
the situation continues along this course, our numbers in the coming 10
years will be not more than a few thousand."
worsening security and religious extremism, and cited death threats
against Christians and the forcible seizure of their property by armed
gangs purporting to be members of powerful militias.
He also reiterated criticism of "Western countries who encourage migration of Christians."
The church leader spoke after visiting Christian communities nationwide.
not explicitly targeted as they were in the aftermath of the 2003
US-led invasion, Christians are among those suffering from the recent
upsurge in violence across Iraq.
In addition to the bloodshed,
they are vulnerable to pressure from armed groups, with local NGOs
reporting several homes belonging to Christians having been forcibly
Though others have suffered similar fates, Christian have
been disproportionately targeted for reasons to do with tribal politics
and because of the high number who have fled.
do not retain tribal affiliations in the way Muslim Arabs do, they have
little recourse for resolving disputes outside the Iraqi legal system,
which is often criticised for corruption and subject to manipulation.