QOSH, Iraq, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Violence against Christians in Iraq is driving them to northern Iraq or abroad, officials said.
The exodus of thousands of people from Baghdad and Mosul has followed a siege at a church in Baghdad that resulted in the deaths of 51 worshipers and two priests, The New York Times reported.
Since the Oct. 31 attack, there has been a series of bombings and assassinations singling out Christians. The violence is hurting a "community whose roots were in Iraq even before Christ," said Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East.
Many of those fleeing the recent violence left the region with no more than they could carry in their cars.
The violence could spell the demise of Christianity in Iraq, the newspaper said. The departure is similar to the fleeing of Iraq's Jews after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, the newspaper said.
"It's exactly what happened to the Jews," said Nassir Sharhoom, 47, who fled last month with his family to the Kurdish capital of Erbil. "They want us all to go."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the country's leaders will tighten security and he asked for tolerance for minority faiths in the largely Muslim nation.
"The Christian is an Iraqi. He is the son of Iraq and from the depths of a civilization that we are proud of," Maliki said.