CNEWA has just learned that the situation in Qaraqosh, Iraq, is critical, that all 50,000 people have been evacuated and that the Syriac bishop there is negotiating between two sides for his people.
The Globe and Mail has the background:
Thousands of Iraqi Christians arrived in Kurdish-controlled areas on Thursday after Islamist militants attacked one of the last Christian enclaves in country.
A staff member from the International Organization for Migration said that between 2,000 and 3,000 people arrived Wednesday night and Thursday morning at a converted youth centre in Ain Kawa, a Christian town on the outskirts of the Kurdish capital of Erbil, that was serving as a temporary refugee-processing hub. Thousands of other Christians were reported to have sought protection with local families in Erbil and other Kurdish cities.
The refugees were fleeing an attack by the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant on Qaraqosh, an historic Christian town outside the city of Mosul. In recent weeks, The Sunni extremist ISIL has made stunning advances in Iraq, seizing the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, as well as border crossings to neighbouring Jordan and Syria, as it pushes towards Baghdad.
ISIL is supported by remnants of the Baath Party of former dictator Saddam Hussein, as well as many local Sunni Muslim tribes opposed to the Shia-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Qaraqosh residents and Kurdish officials say ISIL attacked Qaraqosh — which had been under the joint protection of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and local Christian militiamen — late Wednesday night. Although the attack was apparently repulsed, several mortar rounds landed in Qaraqosh, a town of 50,000, provoking a mass exodus.
Until Wednesday, Qaraqosh had been seen as a safe haven for Christians fleeing violence and persecution in Mosul and other cities. Many residents had moved there following a wave of murders and threats targeting Mosul’s Christians in 2008.
We reported extensively on the plight of Christian refugees in northern Iraq in ONE in 2011, in our story A New Genesis in Nineveh.
Please keep the suffering people of Iraq in your thoughts and prayers. You can also help them with a tangible gift that can help bring medicine and equipment to those in need.