Iraqi Christians consider their future




Some Christians in Iraq's capital were considering leaving, following a wave of bombings targeting members of their religion that left two dead and 16 others wounded.

"I am 60 years old and I gave a lot to this country, but this tough situation is like a message asking me to leave my country," said Kiyour Kizarab, the male head of a Christian family whose house was targeted Thursday in central Baghdad. "If these attacks will continue, and the government can't stop them, then I don't think we will have a future here."

The strikes appeared to be coordinated because they all took place within an hour, an Interior Ministry official said. Explosives were left outside and in the gardens of 14 homes in six neighborhoods across Iraq's sprawling capital.

Among the homes targeted by improvised explosive devices was one Muslim dwelling that was picked because it had a Christmas tree inside, the male head of the family, Ibrahim Sharba, told CNN.The assaults mirrored the early-morning bombings of Christian homes in Baghdad on November 10.

There were two explosions in the east, in New Baghdad; two in Yarmouk; six in the central Baghdad district of Karrada; two in the southern region of Dora; and one each in al-Saydia and Al-Ameriya, the official said.The violence is the latest targeting the Christian minority in Iraq, which has a predominantly Muslim population.

One of the deadliest attacks came October 31, when militants stormed the Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral, or Our Lady of Salvation Church, in Baghdad. Some 70 people died and 75 others, including 51 congregants and two priests, were wounded.

The violence has prompted a "slow but steady exodus" of thousands of Christians from Baghdad and Mosul, the U.N. refugee agency said recently.Before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Christians were estimated to number 1.4 million in Iraq, but the violence and persecution that followed drove nearly half of them out.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Baghdad and Mosul Christians have headed to other destinations in Iraq, including the Kurdish region and the Nineveh Plains, which have a strong Christian presence.

"We have heard many accounts of people fleeing their homes after receiving direct threats. Some were able to take only a few belongings with them," the agency said in a statement. "Churches and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] are warning us to expect more people fleeing in the coming weeks."

U.N. offices in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon are reporting a growing number of Iraqi Christian arrivals.Many Christians in Iraq said they toned down their Christmas celebrations this year because of threats by militants in recent weeks.

By
CNN

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