Iraqi Christians Flee Wave Of Targeted Violence Before the 2003 U.S. invasion, Iraq had nearly 1 million Christians. Now, there are about half that number. A recent string of attacks against a Christian church and homes in Baghdad has prompted families to seek refuge in northern Iraq and try to emigrate.

Iraqi Christians Flee Wave Of Targeted Violence

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In Iraq, a fresh wave of attacks targeting Christians has created a new exodus from Baghdad and other cities. Before the U.S. invasion in 2003, there were close to a million Christians in the country. That number has since been cut in half, and now with the latest violence, families are seeking refuge in Northern Iraq and beyond. NPR's Kelly McEvers reports.

KELLY MCEVERS: This mother of two, who only wants to give her name as Um Milad, or mother of Milad, says she was just starting her day when she heard the boom.

UM MILAD: (Through translation) I woke up at 6:00 because I had to prepare my kid for school. And as we were in the room, suddenly all the glass were shattered. Are we being bombed from somewhere?

MCEVERS: Bashar Warda is a Chaldean Catholic archbishop. He says Christians have been part of this country since the 2nd century. But, unlike other Christian leaders, he can't in good conscience encourage Christians to stay.

BASHAR WARDA: Practically, I cannot guarantee anything to any family. I would ask them if they have the patience to stay, if they could travel elsewhere, just for the meantime, that's all.

MCEVERS: But Salem Tamo Kako, a Christian member of the Kurdish parliament, says that would be a big mistake.

SALEM TAMO KAKO: (Through translation) We don't want to isolate ourselves from rest of the Iraqi community or make Christians a very easy target for the terrorists.

MCEVERS: Now, says one of the sisters, who only wanted to give her first name, Ban, she is ready to leave her country for good.

BAN: I hate being an Iraqi because what they do to us.

MCEVERS: Without any income, the family of nine is living off of savings. We ask how long they have until the money runs out.

BAN: (Speaking foreign language).

MCEVERS: Two months, three months, Ban says, no more.

BAN: (Speaking foreign language).

MCEVERS: Kelly McEvers, NPR News.

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