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          Sep. 23, 2014



Flown to France, Iraqi Christians get new chance at life

Few of the refugees speak French. Most have never ridden in a plane, let alone traveled to a Western country.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online): "There is no future in Iraq. There can be no future between Muslims and Christians here," one refugee says. "I leave my life. I'm between sadness and happiness. But with DAECH (the Arabic acronym for Islamic State), we can't come back," he says.

The nation of France has led European efforts to bring humanitarian aid to refugees. The French government plane, an Airbus A310, delivered 10 more tons of blankets, tents, jerry cans and hygiene kits before transporting the refugees back to Paris.

"There are people sleeping outdoors at the moment, but the focus of this delivery is to prepare for the thousands who will still be here in the winter," a French diplomat said. "It's a veritable ethnic cleansing that we've witnessed here."

France has since entered the military fray in the war against Islamic State. French fighter jets last week launched strikes inside Iraq for the first time as part of an international coalition. The coalition's goal will be in pushing Islamic State back from Iraq to its power base in Syria. It has also delivered weapons, mostly machine guns and ammunition, to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Under pressure from public opinion to admit more Christians from the Middle East, France has already taken in around 100 people since Islamic State launched its military offensive in Iraq in June.

Forty Christians arrived from northern Iraq at the end of August. They were admitted according to strict criteria. The families had to have family ties in France and sufficient resources to survive there. Another 60 have also come by their own means.

Few of the refugees speak French. Most have never ridden in a plane, let alone traveled to a Western country.

"The situation there (in Qaraqosh) was impossible when DAECH came," another refugee says. "They wanted Shariah. They wanted to impose their Islam and they want no Christians.

"We escaped to Arbil from Qaraqosh at the start of August. There were bombs and fighting between DAECH and the Peshmerga. DAECH took everything: food, televisions, refrigerator, everything. It's difficult to stay here as a Christian."