BEIRUT – Aid groups are scrambling to deal with an influx of Iraqi Christians who have been pouring into Lebanon to escape a wave of killings back home.
“The number of Christian Iraqis who are coming to us for help has dramatically increased in the last few months,” said Isabelle Saade Feghali of the aid organisation Caritas.
“Every week since June we have had about five families on average arriving here and seeking help,” she said. “The problem is huge and the aid is never enough.”
“I have been helping at least 20 new families a week since the start of October,” said Rania Chehab as she distributed blankets, medicine and other aid this week at a Lebanese Chaldean church on the outskirts of Beirut.
The church is one of six venues throughout the country where Caritas has set up a centre to help the refugees.
“We have a lot of families arriving now without the men because they were either killed or kidnapped,” Chehab added. “Some of them escape with only the shirts on their back.”
“Each has a sad story and you can tell that they have lost much.”
Overall there are between 40,000 and 50,000 Iraqi refugees — both Christian and Muslim — living in Lebanon, which is considered a transit country for most as they seek to resettle in other countries, mainly the United States.
A recent report by Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights that sets out the number of deaths in different ethnic communities caused by direct or indirect attacks in Iraq between 2003 and the end of 2007 showed that only 172 fatalities were from Iraq’s Christians.