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In the Iraq war, Christians pushed to the brink

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"The scale of the problem is total, and it has created an existential crisis," says Michael Youash of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project, who campaigns on behalf of Iraqi Christians. "It may be that in 20 years there could be no more Christians in Iraq."

Those with means are still leaving the country; very few are returning. Father Sabri al-Maqdacy, a priest in the Arbil suburb of Ainkawa, says that almost all have lost hope that they can stay in Iraq, where most follow the Eastern-rite Catholic Chaldean church.

Mr. Maqdacy estimates that some 40,000 Christians have come to Ainkawa. Inside each big house live several refugee families who have fled cities such as Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul, where militant Islamic groups target Christians and clergy with attacks, kidnappings, and bombings. Mosul "is very bad now," he says. Refugees from Baghdad say churches have been targeted and it would be impossible to build new ones without them being attacked.

Christians targeted for kidnapping

Though violence affected many Iraqis during the war, the situation was particularly bad for Christians, who lacked a security force. They were targeted by both Sunni and Shiite militias, particularly for kidnapping because they were seen as having money to pay ransoms.

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