“Christians are finished here” in Iraq and Syria?

18 Dec

Dictators somewhat protected them.  Now what?

From Iraq:

As the last remaining Christian priest in the Baghdad suburb of Doura, Archdeacon Temathius Esha no longer just puts his trust in God’s all-seeing eye. Built into the wall of his vestry, amid pictures of Catholic saints, is a 16-screen CCTV monitor, keeping watch on every corner of his church in case of possible attack.

Along with the armed guard outside and concrete anti-blast walls, it makes St Shmoni’s feel more like a fortress than a house of worship. And after a decade in which Doura’s Iraqi Christian community has been robbed, kidnapped and murdered by Islamist extremists, it finds itself offering sanctuary to an ever-dwindling flock.

“Doura was once one of the biggest Christian communities in Iraq, with 30,000 families,” said Mr Esha, as he prepared for an afternoon congregation that barely filled two of the 22 rows of pews. “Now there are only 2,000 left. They feel they are strangers in their own land, and that makes them want to leave. The bleeding from migration is continuous.”

Today, St Shmoni is one of just two of Doura’s original seven churches still open, casualties of a period in which the area become one of the most notorious al-Qaeda strongholds in Baghdad. In the years that followed the US-led invasion of 2003, two churches were car bombed, while the others closed due to lack of numbers and the kidnapping for ransom of four of Mr Esha’s fellow priests, which has left just him and a local monk remaining.

Over the years, his own church has had an improvised explosive device and two car bombs planted outside it. All were fortunately discovered before they were detonated.

Read the rest here

And a BBC report from Syria

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