About 500 Christian families, more than 2,000 people, have fled Baghdad and Mosul in recent weeks amid continuing violence and intimidation.
The largest attack occurred on Oct. 31 when the militant group Islamic State of Iraq massacred up to 58 people and injured 70 at the Syriac Catholic cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation. Following the attack, coordinated bombings of Christian homes took place around the Iraqi capital.
Late on Sunday, Dec. 5, attackers broke into the longtime home of an elderly Christian couple in Baghdad’s Bealdeyat district, killed them and looted their house.
With many Iraqi Christians fleeing the violence, the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is announcing that it will supply emergency aid to the families.
The charity will provide the victims of the Oct. 31 massacre with around $20,000. It will also provide about $13,300 to impoverished Christians from Baghdad who have fled to the cities of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah.
Another $33,300 will help provide food packages for hungry Christian families in the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Zakho. The Chaldean Sisters of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate will distribute this aid.
Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil thanked the charity for its continuing help. Christians are very afraid, he reported.
“The Christians in Baghdad and Mosul do not have a dignified life. They feel afraid even in their own home. They cannot move freely,” he explained. “They have to think twice about going to church on Sundays.”
“People would leave immediately if they could,” he continued. “The only thing that is stopping them is that in many cases they are poor and if they left they would struggle to find a job, schools for their children and a home to live in.”
According to the archbishop, real estate agents in Baghdad had reduced the value of Christian-owned properties. This would mean that if the Christians sold they would struggle to find a decent alternative home.
Pope Benedict XVI recently told Aid to the Church in Need to focus on supporting the Christian faithful in Iraq, saying that the local Church is “threatened in its very existence.”