Iraq Priests Says Christians Not Fleeing

Despite Threats From Muslim Fundamentalists

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, JULY 5, 2004 ( Despite threats from Muslim fundamentalist groups, Christians are not fleeing from Iraq, says a priest in the north.

«Christians are not running away from Iraq,» Father Nizar Semaan of Mosul told the Vatican agency Fides. «Some media keep reporting that Christians are leaving en masse, but this is not true.»

«There are cases of people who go to another country for a while, especially to nearby Jordan,» he said. «Most of them are rich people, and they can be Christians, and also Muslims, Sunni and Shiite. Because of insecurity in towns such as Baghdad and Mosul, many think they will be safer in villages or across the border. But I am certain that they do not intend to leave Iraq for good.»

Father Nizar added: «Over the past weeks there were rumors that the Australian Embassy in Baghdad was issuing visas to Iraqis wanting to leave the country. These reports were later denied by the Australian diplomatic authorities and also by Iraqi priests in Australia. In fact, Australia has an Iraqi community which might attract others to emigrate there. In any case I say again that for the moment there are only isolated cases.»

According to some media, Assyrian Christians say they are being threatened by Muslim fundamentalists. Assyrians also complain that Iraq’s new television broadcasts programs about Islam four times every day but gives no airtime to other religions.

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