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Christian 'Hemorrhage' Increases in Iraq

BY AVA THOMAS                                                                                                                          ©2010 Baptist Press

Rahim* took one bullet in the leg, then one in the head while sitting in a church pew. But his death and the deaths of 50 other Christians gunned down with him on October 31 marked more than just the ends of their lives. They symbolized the demise of the entire Christian population of Iraq, said one Baptist worker familiar with the situation.

"This is not the start -- it's the period to a long-running sentence, the end of a tragic novel that's been playing out for years," said Nik Ripken*, who has served 25 years with the International Mission Board and is an expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida group, took credit for the massacre at Our Lady of Salvation, a Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad, plus the spate of bombings and killings that followed. The group claimed the violence was in response to the alleged detention of two women in Egypt said to have converted to Islam.

Major news outlets showed the world the bloodbath, the most fatal single incident of violence since Islamic extremists began targeting Christians, according to Compass Direct News in a November 3 Baptist Press article,

But that one highly publicized tragedy doesn't account for the hundreds of thousands of Christians who have been lost to Iraq one way or another in the past seven years, Ripken said. More than half of the nation's Christians have fled Iraq since 2003, according to Compass Direct News. Just shy of 600,000 remain.

Most who flee go first to Syria or Jordan then try to find permanent residence as refugees in Europe, Canada, the United States or Australia, according to Bassam Madany, whose ministry, Middle East Resources, offers perspectives on Islam from a Christian viewpoint.

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*Name Changed

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