Vicar: Dire Times For Iraq's Christians

Tells 60 Minutes Most Of Iraq's Christians Have Fled Or Been Killed

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On Sunday, Aug. 1, 2004, five churches were bombed. The Iraqi Christian community, which had survived invasions by Mongols and Turks, was driven out under American occupation. No one can be sure, but White estimates most of Iraq's Christians have fled or been killed. Those still here are too old, too ill or too poor to run.

"Why are you feeding them all?" Pelley asked.

"Because, this is the only decent meal they'll have in the week," White explained. "They can't afford food. So we're just moving from every other week to every week because they've got nothing."

Nothing for many, not even their families. The 60 Minutes team was confronted with one of many stories of depravity as the congregation left.

"Outside the church service this gentleman put these pictures in my hand. I can't show you the pictures. They're just too much. They're pictures of his children. His daughter who was 15 years old. And his son who was about four years old. They've both been shot in the head," Pelley said.

His children were killed, the father said, because he ran a liquor store. Liquor stores are typically Christian businesses here, legal, except under the Islamic street justice that rules since the invasion.

"So I hear stories of shootings, death, torturing, kidnapping, mutilation. I hear it all," White told Pelley.

The people with those stories once lived in a neighborhood called Dora, where Christians, Sunnis, and Shiites had lived together. 60 Minutes wanted to see what happened there so, we took a ride with U.S. Army Colonel Rick Gibbs. His men picked Pelley and the team up under a rusting relic of Saddam's tyranny, a parade archway made of two enormous swords, and from there they headed to ethnic cleansing's "ground zero."

"We have 13 churches. None of them are operational," Col. Gibbs said.

Asked if this was the worst neighborhood in town, Gibbs said, "It's the toughest neighborhood in town."

Gibbs commands the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan. In Dora, he set up a combat outpost in an abandoned Catholic seminary.

"I was at a secret church service yesterday. A man came up to me and handed me some photographs of his children. They'd been shot to death. Somebody had come by their house and murdered his children because they were Christians. What are you seeing?" Pelley asked Gibbs.

"I don't see a lot of that anymore. But when we first arrived we saw lots of that. We have 500 a month. That's what we were tracking," the colonel replied. "It would not surprise my soldiers to walk down a street on a patrol and see three or four bodies laying in the street with a bullet behind their head."

U.S. forces do not protect the churches. There's a hands-off policy for all religious sites and Gibbs says there's another reason.

"The Christians do not what us to guard the churches openly," he said.

Why wouldn't the Christians want Gibbs and his soldiers to protect the churches?

"They feel that if we are overtly protecting the churches that someone underground covertly will come in and murder the Christians because they're collaborating with the U.S. forces," Gibbs explained.

There seems to be less violence now in part because of the surge of U.S. forces but also because the purge of Christians from Dora is largely complete. Gibbs says Islamic militants are on the run now.

"We hear that through our intelligence sources on the ground people telling us they're running that's how we knew to come down here with our next big fight to keep getting after them," Gibbs said, as shots could be heard in the background. "And that's what you hear over there is us in that fight trying to go get them."