KIDNAPPINGS and murders are rife, and the persecution that Middle East experts predicted would happen if the country was invaded is a daily reality.

Now the 300-strong Iraqi Christian community in Wales is seeking support for a change in policy from the UK Government that would stop asylum seekers from their midst being sent back.Businessman Raad Halabia has lived in Wales for 30 years, originally coming to study at what is now the University of Glamorgan. After working for Neath Port Talbot Council, he left to run his own catering and property development businesses. Living in Cardiff, he is vice-chairman of the Iraqi Christian Association in Wales.

He said: “Saddam Hussein was, of course, a dictator. But so long as you didn’t involve yourself in politics, you would be left alone to get on with your life.“Following the first Gulf War in the early 1990s, a lot of Iraqi Christians left for the United States and Europe. Their numbers declined from around five million to about 2.5 million in 2003. Now the figure is about 600,000.“After the invasion in 2003 there was total chaos. The general view of extremists was that the invasion was a takeover by Western powers that were mainly Christian.

“So in revenge they targeted the Christians of Iraq as an easy option. Since the invasion, extreme Islamic fundamentalists and their supporters from both inside and outside Iraq have been bombing and burning churches, kidnapping, torturing, raping and murdering.”In 2008 Bishop Faraj Paulus Rahho, of the Chaldean Catholic Church, was murdered in the northern city of Mosul. Then on the last day of October this year several militants, calling themselves the Islamic State of Iraq, stormed into Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral in Baghdad, taking the entire congregation hostage for four hours before murdering 57 and leaving 67 wounded.

Among those murdered was a relative of Raad Halabia, who said: “Since this dreadful massacre, the situation has got even worse for Iraqi Christians. The Iraqi Government is making it difficult for them to get new passports. They are having severe problems selling their homes for a reasonable price, and even if they succeed they are tracked down and killed for the money.“In these circumstances, we believe the UK Government should not be sending Iraqi Christians back to Iraq. The situation for them is far too dangerous.”

A campaign is under way aimed at persuading the Government to change its policy. It is backed by Cytun, the umbrella body representing churches in Wales, whose chief executive Rev Aled Edwards said: “We believe Iraqi Christians deserve support at this very difficult time. It is not right that people should be returned to face persecution of the kind that is going on in Iraq. Together with other bodies, we shall be putting pressure on the Home Office to let them stay.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK Border Agency continues to undertake removals to Iraq for those individuals who have been found not to have a right to be here.“This position is supported by the UK courts who confirmed on September 20, 2010, that we are able to return people to Iraq.

“If an Iraqi Christian is found to be in genuine need of our protection, we will grant them refuge. However, equally, we expect those who we and the courts find are not in need of our assistance to leave voluntarily. If they fail to do so we will seek to enforce their removal.“Having an enforced route for returns is an important part of ensuring we focus our resources on those who genuinely need our help.”

by Martin Shipton,
Wales Online

Please contact your Members of Parliament through and urge them to support the campaign to defend Iraqi Christians from deportation. Remember they need your vote!



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