QARAQOSH, Iraq – Christians are only 2 percent of Iraq's mostly Muslim population. And while they have little to do with the ongoing fighting, as I witnessed in the Christian village of Qaraqosh in Northern Iraq this week, they're suffering the consequences.
The Islamic State group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has been launching mortars into the area. Last week, we watched as 90 percent of the town’s residents fled to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in Iraq, terrified of rumors they had heard about ISIL fighters in Syria killing Christians and burning churches.
We journeyed to Qaraqosh with an Iraqi military escort, entering what looked like a ghost town. As we drove in, businesses were closed and the streets practically bare.
"We don’t have water or electricity, Rajda added. "And we’re afraid too, but we have faith of God that he will save us. He never forgets us. We are proud of being Christian."
When the shelling started, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces stepped in to make sure the fighters from the Islamic State did not occupy Qaraqosh. Now, the rebels remain poised less than a kilometer outside the city limits, and residents here fear their next move.
They've heard horror stories from across the border in Syria.
"They killed the Christians. They took money from them, and if they don’t have money, they took their wives," one shopkeeper told me. "We are scared and afraid."