lunedì, giugno 30, 2014


Uncertain future for local refugees in Iraq

Tony Cheng

In Iraq, the government is claiming to have expelled Sunni militants from ISIL from the city of Tikrit, while the militants say they have stopped the Iraqi army’s advance. What does seem clear is that it will take the government months to push out the militants who now control much of northern Iraq. That will be of great concern to Iraq’s religious minorities, particularly Christians, who fear living under the extreme version of Islam, enforced in areas that ISIL controls.Being given their daily bread. The Christians of Qaraqosh, an Assyrian community just South of Mosul, many of whom have now fled to Kurdistan. On Wednesday, battles between Sunni Militants and Kurdish fighters forced them from their homes. Now they are resident in community centers and halls in Christian areas of Erbil.
"The situation was very dangerous because there were many battles between the Peshmerga and Isis although we couldn’t really see which groups were fighting, and we knew Kurdistan was safe, so we came here," Qaraqosh resident Mansour said.
The influx of so many people has stretched the local community to its limit. They estimate more than twelve thousand fled in 24 hours.Volunteers, like the local football coach, have been working around the clock to look after the refugees needs, with donations from locals and international aid organizations. But many are now going home after their religious leaders told them it was safe.
The extreme religious views of the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the levant has concerned Christians. Here ISIL fighters hand out Korans to drivers in Mosul. But the Bishop of Mosul has told Christians they can return home,he remains in the city under ISIL control.
In Erbil, at St Josephs Cathedral the Patriachs of the Syrian and Iraqi Church had come to offer their prayers for peace. But clearly they are prepared for the worst as body guards for the patriarchs watch carefully at the end of the service. They have both said Christian communities in this area, some of the oldest Christian communities in the world, are now under serious threat.The priest in charge of Qaraqosh is under no illusions too while it may be safe for his parishioners now,a future under ISIL is unlikely to be good.
Back at the refugee center, however, people are keen to get home.
And as they wait for a ride home, it is clear that Iraq’s Christians are heading to an uncertain future. With little to protect them but their faith.

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