Wednesday, August 09, 2006

750,000 Christians Caught in Crossfire

From World Net Daily: 750,000 Christians caught in crossfire. In full ...

An estimated 750,000 Christians have been ejected from their homes -- and sometimes their own nations -- as militant Islamists wage their war on infidels across the Mideast, according to several Christian refugee organizations.

In just recent weeks, more than 100,000 Lebanese who are Christian have been forced to flee the violence ravaging their homeland, according to the Barnabas Fund, a Christian group established in 1993 that channels aid to projects run by Christian nationals in more than 40 countries.

"On both sides of the conflict, Israel and Lebanon, the Christian community is caught in the crossfire," Carl Moeller, the president of Open Doors USA, the Bible-delivering ministry founded by Dutch missionary Brother Andrew in 1955, told WorldNetDaily.

Brother Andrew's story was portrayed in the book "God's Smuggler," which detailed his exploits of driving cars loaded with Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. After the book was published, much of his organization's work was moved to the Mideast, where projects have included the Gaza Baptist Church and Bethlehem Bible College.

"The current conflict in Lebanon has caused almost a quarter of the Lebanese population to relocate, some within their own country, others to Syria and Jordan," the Barnabas Fund said. Other displaced Christians have come from Syria, Jordan, Iraq and the West Bank, numbering up to 750,000 across the region, it said.

There have been about 50,000 Lebanese Christians who have fled to other parts of their own nation, 33,000 who have gone to Syria and another 30,000 who have fled to Jordan, the group said.

"In addition there were an estimated 80,000-100,000 Filipino, Sri Lankan and other 'third country nationals' working in south Lebanon, many of whom were Christians. It is believed that most have left," the Barnabas Fund said.

In recent weeks many Arab Israelis, including Christians, also have fled northern Israel, moving to the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Jericho, Syria via Jordan and other locations.

The group also reported that large numbers of Iraqi Christians fled their country following the 1990-1991 Gulf War, and the 2003 conflict that deposed Saddam Hussein led to another surge of departures.

"The increasingly ferocious anti-Christian rhetoric and violence since then have ensured that the flow of Christians out of Iraq continues," the group's report said.

Iraq basically has a de facto civil war among the Shiite, Sunni and Kurd populations, and the Christians are faced with the stark choice, Moeller said.

"Do we try to maintain an existence in a society that's crumbling around us? Where do the Christians go?"

However, Moeller said God continues to do amazing things. In northern Iraq, a recent conference for Christian pastors drew 640 leaders, he said.

An estimated 190,000 Iraqi Christians have moved to Syria since 2003, settling mostly in Aleppo and Damascus, while another 195,000 have moved to Jordan, including 45,000 just this year.

The number of Iraqi Christians still in their homeland now total little more than 200,000, officials said, down from 1.5 million before 1990. And many of the 200,000 are displaced within their country, after fleeing Baghdad and southern parts of the nation.

Even after arriving in a new location, the refugees face further difficulties, with a ban in Jordan on Iraqi children studying in government schools, and some nations now refusing entry to refugees.

"Filipinos, for example, do not expect any help from the Filipino government, nor from the Lebanese families who formerly employed them as domestic servants," the Barnabas Fund said.

The biggest needs are shelter, food and clothing, as well as specific medical needs because of war injuries.

A report by Catholic News Service put the estimate for Christians leaving Iraq at about half.

In that report, Chaldean Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Andreos Abouna said of the 1.2 million Christians estimated to have been in the predominantly Shiite Muslim state, there remain only 600,000. Many have gone to Syria, Jordan and Turkey, he said.

There was no way to reconcile the differing estimates regarding the roughly 3 percent of the Iraqi population who are Christian. The rest are Shiite and Sunni Muslims, and in some locations those religious leaders have created a virtual Islamist religious compound where alcohol is banned and rigid Islamic dress codes are enforced, the report said.

United Nations sources also have reported that in Iraq Christians are experiencing increased discrimination in access to jobs and social services. More than one-third of those who have fled Iraq to Syria are Christians, though they make up only a small percentage of the population.

Christian shops legally selling CDs and videos also have been burned and looted and to date, the Barnabas Fund has sent an estimated $20,000 to help 100 Christian refugee families in Lebanon and another $10,000 to help those in Syria.