From Aid to the Church in Need:
Christians in one corner of Iraq have tripled in number over the past 15 years according to a leading bishop who is grappling with an influx of people escaping persecution and oppression.Christians in Ankawa, a suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, have increased from more than 8,500 in the mid-1990s to more than 25,500 today.
Of those, up to 1,500 have arrived within the last year alone.
Many of them fled after the October 31st, 2010, siege of the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad where 58 people were killed and more than 70 were injured in an attack during Sunday evening Mass.
Christians arriving in Ankawa have fled not only from the Iraqi capital but from all across the country: Mosul in the north, Kirkuk in the north-east, and even Basra, hundreds of miles away in the extreme south.
Giving this assessment of the displacement of Christians in Iraq, Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the huge challenge of helping people arriving in Ankawa.
He added, “Many Christians arrive in Ankawa very poor. They need jobs, they need decent healthcare and they need good homes.”
The archbishop said many were attracted by the relative safety of the Kurdish north and had come to Ankawa because of its high proportion of Christians.
Underlining the need to support Christians, Archbishop Warda said that this week alone a Catholic primary school had opened its doors for the first time.
Back in January, Archbishop Warda got local government support for a plan to secure two plots of land to build a 100-bed hospital and a university.
But the archbishop said there was still a huge amount of work ahead.
“The people demand a great deal from the Church. We are doing our best to help them” [more].
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