St. Joseph's Church, Ainkawa
Ainkawa, a Christian town in Iraqi Kurdistan on the outskirts of Erbil, is filling quickly with Christians fleeing the violence of Arab-controlled Iraq. There are roughly 10,000 displaced Iraqi Christians in Ainkawa, a town of about 25,000 people. Real estate prices are soaring, houses are packed with extra familiy members and friends, and the town is probably the only place in Iraq where new churches are actually being built rather than bombed. Many of the new residents of Ainkawa say that it is only a matter of time before Christian life in Iraq outside Kurdistan is effectively eradicated.
When TIME photographer Newsha Tavakolian and I visited one of these newly built churches for Sunday evening service yesterday, she bumped into an old friend, Hanni, who had been her driver in Baghdad for a month at the beginning of the war. Newhsa had strong memories of Hanni -- who saved her life at least once -- but lost touch after she left Baghdad for the last time. Hani, his wife and six children fled Baghdad a few months ago after Mulism militants burned down their house. "He had such hope for the new Iraq," said Newsha.