Thousands of Iraqi Christians are fleeing Iraq, after an escalation in anti Christian violence.
There was an explosion in the mainly Christian district of Camp Sara, Baghdad, on October 4th. As people gathered round to help the wounded a second, larger explosion occurred. Nine Christians were killed.
Christian minister murdered
On Tuesday 10th October Paulos Iskander, an Iraqi church minister, was abducted in Mosul. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of $250,000; the family, unable to raise this money, were able to negotiate for a ransom of $40,000, but the kidnappers also demanded that Iskander's church publicly repudiate the remarks about Islam quoted by Pope Benedict XV last month.
When Iskander's family asked for proof that he was still alive the kidnappers held up the phone so that the sounds of crying and screaming could be heard Iskander's church as well as several other churches placed 30 large posters around the city to distance themselves from the Pope's words.
However, before the ransom could be paid Iskander's decapitated body was discovered on 12th October, dumped in an outlying suburb of Mosul. His body showed signs of torture, with cigarette burns, bullet holes and wounds from beatings. His hands and legs had been severed, and arranged around his head which was placed on his chest. Iskander's family later received a phone call from the kidnappers, who taunted them.
There has been an unconfirmed report that a 14 year old Christian boy was crucified in Basra.
Amidst the surge in hostility towards Christians in recent weeks, Christian girls have increasingly become the target in a spate of kidnappings. The girls are taken from their families at gunpoint, from their homes or snatched off streets into waiting cars. They are frequently raped and abused while in captivity, only released if their families are able to find the large ransoms demanded. The shame of their ordeal, which is felt far more in such a culture than in the West, can make the victim suicidal. In one case a girl killed herself after being abducted and gang raped by nine men. When the abductors allowed her to call her family she asked them not to pay the ransom. The family did pay and she was returned to them, but she was found dead the following morning; she had taken an overdose of sleeping pills.
In another case five Christian girls were kidnapped in front of policemen as they tried to obtain passports from a travel and citizenship department in Baghdad. The police did nothing to try to stop the kidnappers.
Thirty families in Mosul received messages on their mobile phones on 30th September telling them to leave within 72 hours or they would be killed. The continued exodus of Christians from Iraq leads some to predict that there may soon be an end to the ancient Christian presence in this country.