Iraq — January 2007

Sociopolitical Situation

The situation in Iraq is very serious. The continuous sectarian violence and terrorism overshadow every aspect of daily life, and the death rate grows higher – over one hundred Iraqis every day. It is likely to cause worse violence in the near and long-term. Such a situation raises the potential for dangerous arms races in the region, threatening Iraq’s neighbors and the world.

Daily, there are unbearable, horrifying scenes. People are being threatened and risking their lives as they go out to work to feed their families or go to school and college; they are existing, not living.

The United Nation estimates that 100,000 people flee the country every month. Jordan earlier this year made entry more difficult, refusing to renew visas for Iraqis and turning new refugees away at the border. Therefore, Syria has become the new destination, with some 2,000 refugees entering every day.

The geography of Baghdad is changing; population is shifting from one neighborhood to another and neighborhoods are becoming almost entirely Sunni or entirely Shiite, which is exceptional in the history of Baghdad. Inter-marriage used to be fairly common; this is gradually disappearing as weeks and months pass.

Religious Situation

Bishop Gabriel Kassab was transferred from the see of Basra and appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as the first bishop for the new Chaldean Eparchy of Oceania, “St. Thomas the Apostle of Sydney for Chaldeans.”

Christians in Iraq have begun to fear more than before as actions by fanatics against them have increased. The Christians have been subject to a steady stream of church bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and threatening letters slipped under their doors.

Estimates of the resulting Christian exodus vary from tens of thousands to more than 100,000, with most heading for Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. In addition to the many Christians who have relocated, changing neighborhoods or even cities, about a thousand Christian families from Mosul, Baghdad, Basra, and elsewhere, have taken refuge in Ain Kawa, a small town outside the Kurdish city of Erbil, which has become an oasis for Christians.

The number of Christians who remain is also uncertain, but according to a Chaldean Catholic auxiliary bishop, there were 500,000 Christian left.

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