Not a prayer: Iraq’s Christian exodus continues from a ‘land of ...

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Not a prayer: Iraq’s Christian exodus continues from a ‘land of militias’

Families in their thousands have escaped the lawlessness and sectarianism that has prevailed since the fall of Saddam Hussein

Colin Freeman

With armed police outside and CCTV cameras within, St Joseph’s Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad does its best to protect worshippers from the dangers of modern-day Iraq. But as the rows of empty pews show, most of its congregation have opted for altogether safer sanctuary abroad.

Of the 5,000 families that the church once tended, only 150 now remain after a mass migration to Europe and North America in the past decade.

“They feel there is no peace, law or justice here in Baghdad, and that our country has become a land of militias,” said Father Nadheer Dako, St Joseph’s parish priest, after a Sunday morning service that drew just 25 people to a church built for 1,000. Dako has just returned to Baghdad after a six-year posting to the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church in Ealing, west London, where many exiled Iraqi Christians live. His flock there is 350 families strong – more than twice what remains in Baghdad...

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