May 31, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Leaders of Iraq's Christian community estimate that over two-thirds of the country's Christian population has fled the country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
While exact numbers are unknown, reports suggest that whole neighborhoods of Christians have cleared out in the cities of Baghdad and Al-Basrah, and that both Sunni and Shi'ite insurgent groups and militias have threatened Christians. The gravity of the situation prompted Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani last week to ask Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi to take steps to protect the Christian community.
Sunni imams in Baghdad have made similar statements to their congregations in Friday Prayer sermons. Fighters loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr this week warned Christians in Baghdad to wear the veil or face grave consequences.
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