Christians flee Iraq

 An estimated half of Iraq's one million Christians have fled the country since the war, according to Ra'ed Bahou, director of the Pontifical Mission for Jordan and Iraq. Although Saddam Hussein was cruel and despotic, during his regime the Christians were able to live very safely. Now they are targeted by extremist Islamic groups who see them as allies of the west. Many Christian businesses have been attacked. Families with children are threatened with kidnapping. Christian women are advised to wear the veil when they go out on the street, for their own safety. More than six Iraqi priests have been kidnapped and five Christian churches bombed in the last three years. Thousands of Iraqi Christians have sought refuge in Jordan. As there is only one Chaldean Catholic priest in Amman, many have found their place within the churches of different rites. Bahou said that the churches in Jordan are so full now, worshippers have to come early to get a seat. Over the last three years Pontifical Mission has sponsored workshops run by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, to train Iraqi catechists. Until recently half were held in Iraq and half in Jordan. Because of the political situation the last two workshops in Iraq were suspended, although the organisers hope to be able to resume them soon. Source: ACN

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