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Iraqi Christians in grave danger, warns cleric

Fundraisers at Bow Street

Fundraisers at Bow Street

The end appears “very near” for Christians in Iraq, the vicar of the only Anglican church in the country warned as he appealed for more help to counter the threat from Islamist militants.

Faced with an ultimatum from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) forces to convert, pay a tax or be killed, Christians in the northern city of Mosul mostly fled last week.

But Canon Andrew White – dubbed “the bishop of Baghdad” for his work at St George’s church in the capital – said they were trapped in the desert or on the streets with nowhere to go.

“Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today. “We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off.

“Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”

The vicar is in London to speak about the crisis and raise awareness of the need to provide more help to the persecuted minority.

“The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go,” he said.

“We do not want Britain to forget us. We – and I’m saying ‘we’ talking like an Iraqi Christian – have always been with the British because they have already been with us.

“Individual churches, individual Christians in Britain, have been a bigger help than anybody around the world.”

There were as many as a million Christians living in Iraq prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, many in areas like Mosul where the communities date back to the first centuries of Christianity.

There are now thought to be fewer than half that number.

 

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