40,000 Christians Leave Iraq in Wake of Attacks

BAGHDAD, Iraq, AUG. 16, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Some 40,000 Christians have left Iraq in the wake of recent attacks on churches in the country, says a government official.

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In statements Sunday to the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, the minister for displacement and migration, Pascale Icho Warda, said that the emigration «is due to the insecurity and the attacks on churches in Baghdad and Mosul two weeks ago.»

Four attacks on Christian places of worship in Baghdad and two in Mosul left at least 10 dead and 50 wounded at the beginning of August.

On Aug. 2, John Paul II sent a message to Archbishop Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and president of the assembly of the Catholic bishops of Iraq, to express his sympathy.

«At this time of trial I am spiritually close to the Iraqi Church and society, and I renew the expression of my heartfelt solidarity to the pastors and faithful,» the papal telegram said.

John Paul II assured Iraqi Christians of his prayer and «constant commitment» so that «a climate of peace and reconciliation will be established in the beloved country as soon as possible.»

Christians comprise about 700,000 of Iraq’s 24 million inhabitants.

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