Violence against Christians in Iraq: Development and Peace calls for the protection of the Christian minority in the country

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Montreal - Development and Peace voices concern over the safety of Christians in Iraq. Violent attacks on Christians have increased in the past two weeks, leading to over half of the Christian population in Mosul to flee the Northern Iraqi city, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has pressed the government to acknowledge that Christian communities in Iraq have been facing growing violence and need support.

The Christian minority is vulnerable to attack because it is unarmed and often associated with the presence of foreign troops in the country. However, the Christian community has lived in Iraq since the 2nd century and is an important part of the Iraqi population.

"We consider that an escalation of this tragedy could lead to emptying Iraq of its Christian population," warns Rev. Dr. Riad Jarjour, Secretary General of the Arab Group for Muslim-Christian Dialogue, a Development and Peace partner. "This would be a deadly blow to the Arab Muslim-Christian model of co-existence which has existed from the emergence of Islam until today."

Approximately one third of the 800,000 Christians living in Iraq before 2003 have now left the country and many more are internally displaced. Twelve Christians have been killed in Mosul in the month of October.

The Arab Group for Muslim-Christian Dialogue has met with Iraqi Muslim authorities and representatives of the Iraqi government in order to set a strategy for the protection of the community and to allow the displaced to return to their homes.

Development and Peace has committed $50,000 to its Caritas partner in Iraq to provide humanitarian aid to families in Northern Iraq who were displaced because of the violence.

"We believe this to be the worst case of violence against Christians in the past five years," says Joseph Farah, President of Caritas for the Middle East region. "Helping Christians to remain in their homeland is truly part of rebuilding the country".

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Eleonore Fournier-Tombs, 514 257-8711 ext. 307,