Faithful Flee, Churches Close in Baghdad
KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, OCT. 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The recent escalation of violence in Baghdad has become too much for Christians caught in the crossfire, an Iraqi priest told the charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Father Bashar Warda told the aid organization that the conflict between the various warring factions has forced the faithful left in Al Dora -- Baghdad's district known as the "Vatican of Iraq" -- to leave.
"Nearly 700 Christian families living there have been forced to leave toward North Iraq, Syria and Jordan," he said.
"Up to a dozen centers of Catholic life and worship, including the only theological university, Babel College, and at least five churches have been closed in Al Dora," added the priest.
Father Warda said, however, that there is hope.
The Church was able to open a primary school in eastern Baghdad using a building funded in part by Aid to the Church in Need. The priest reported that 380 children attend The Tent of Mary School, 70% of whom are Muslims.
Father Warda also said that Catholic medical centers are very popular among Muslims.
Given "the trust that the Muslims have in our educational and medical institutions, we should definitely keep them going," he said. "It is the only hope we have that some day Iraq will rise again from this terrible situation."