Features/Iraqi Exodus

Menirva Manhal KhoshabaMenirva is hanging onto her dreams. She’s 18. She’s lived as a refugee and a sweatshop seamstress since she was 14. Dreams are all she has.

“I don’t want to drop my dream. I always want to keep our hope alive, that someone will help us, will accept us. I cannot imagine that I will accept life here,” she said, and the tears begin. “I am tired. I cannot take it any more. I want to continue to dream.”

For Christian refugees, 'There is no future in Iraq'

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Diana Khodr and daughter ReenaThe death threat was no surprise to Ihab Ephraim Khodr. He had seen it happen to other Christians. There had been plenty of other vague and general threats, year after year, before he received a personal threat just before Iraq’s March 7 elections. He had been waiting for it.

His expectation is inked into his right wrist.

In his student days in the first half of the decade, Ihab had begun to get a tattoo that would have portrayed a crown of thorns wrapped around his wrist. It was to be a sign of his devotion to Christ. It also would have made him recognizable on the street as a Christian.

Past the point of no return

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Manhal Khoshaba Mikhail and Madeline Boutrous Oraha Matti An election victory for Iraq’s more secular, less sectarian parties backing Prime Minister-elect Ayad Allawi isn’t tempting Iraqi Christian refugees to return home, even as members of the Chaldean Church hierarchy continue to express confidence that Christians can live in peace in Iraq.

“It’s very, very difficult to turn back to Iraq, impossible to turn back,” Toma Georgees told The Catholic Register in his apartment in the Geremana neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria. “Our problem is not with the Iraqi government. Our problem is with Iraqi people, ignorant people who want to kill us, who want to kill all the Christians... Those people are ignorant, and they just want to drink our blood as Christians.”

ANALYSIS : Christians are essential to Middle East's future

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Iraqi Christian MassYou don’t need to know a word of old Syriac or Aramaean, not a word of Arabic. You don’t need to know the stories of kidnappings, death threats or the desperate flight to the border. You don’t need to know how these people have lived for years in exile on borrowed money, tea, sugar and bread.

From the moment you walk into a church filled with Iraqi refugees in Syria or Lebanon their faith, their devotion, their steadfast love of God is as real, as concrete, visible and tangible as the walls of the church.

Exodus Iraq: A flight to safety, a cry for help

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Zuhaila and David MikhaBeirut / Damascus - In 2006 there was an explosion at the church where Zuhaila Mikha’s husband used to help out. Ramzi was killed. Then in July, 2007 Mikha’s 19-year-old daughter was kidnapped. After two months of asking police and hospitals for information about her daughter she got word from her neighbour: “Let your neighbour know she should not go to the police or we will kill her.”

She moved from Mosul to the nearby Christian village of Tel Eskoff. But after nine months trapped in the village — running out of money, afraid to go to the city, afraid to let her children out of her sight — it was time to get out of Iraq.

The Catholic Register responds to crisis in Iraq

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Iraqi ChristiansFawaz Fatohi received an envelope at his home containing a knife and an anonymous letter: “If you don’t leave Iraq, you will be killed.”

Fatohi is an Iraqi Christian. He was raising a young family in Baghdad when the death threat arrived. Soon thereafter he was among an estimated half-million Iraqi Christians who had fled for their lives. He eventually found refuge in Canada, leaving behind his forsaken brothers in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

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