Iraqi Christians live in fear

 Fides News Service has sent the following report from Father Nizar Semaan, a Catholic priest in Iraq. People in Mosul, mostly Christians, are terrified since radical groups act in broad daylight and no one stops them. Their intention is to destroy social harmony and upset peaceful co-existence between Christians and Muslims. The situation is critical and a solution must be found to prevent the worst from happening. In recent weeks in Mosul Dominican Friars and the Christian community have been told by Sunni Wahabit Muslim groups to take their things and leave. However the few Christians who do decide to go, are finding it very difficult to sell their shops or business in Mosul since the Imam has told Muslims not to buy - but simply to but to wait until the Christians are chased away and take the shops and businesses for nothing. When I asked one local Muslim known to be a man of peace the reason for this violence, he said that all the week he is calm but when he goes to the mosque on Fridays and hears the Imam preach violence he loses his reason and feelings of hatred and violence grow in his heart. More and more Christians have to put up with being insulted and offended on the streets and girl students at university are forced to wear the Muslim veil. Christians are asking: who will protect us? If we ask the Americans to help we will be called traitors and risk death. If we ask the Kurds to protect us we will be accused of working against unity in Iraq. Many Muslims of good will in Mosul are don't agree with the threats but are too afraid to speak out. The mayor warned these groups to stop offending and attacking Christians and we hope something will be done before the situation is out of control. Quite a few Christians, including rich Christians in Baghdad, are moving away to Syria or Jordan, or to the north where they feel safer with the Kurds. Many engineers, doctors and university teachers are leaving Iraq, after receiving threats. Those who want to stay are told they must pay large sums of money for protection. There is a war on people with talent and those working to improve the situation in our country. The aim of the extremists is to empty Iraq of educated people and businessmen so terrorists can take over and Iraq will be at the mercy of ignorant people and radical Islamic groups. Security is a problem in large towns and in villages where Christians are a majority. These villages are surrounded by Muslim villages where people are armed to the teeth with weapons which belonged to Saddam's army. We are not armed because we do not believe in the law of armed force. But how long can Christians resist waiting for death with their arms crossed? I call on the international civil society and all people of good will to intervene to prevent a massacre. We do not want another Darfur. We must act quickly, the world must know how we suffer. We want to stay in our country. I wonder what would happen to Iraq if its Christians were to abandon the country? The future would certainly be black, the presence of Christians is a sound contribution towards building a democratic Iraq. "

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