Despite an improved security situation in their country, Iraqi Christians continue to filter out of their churches and flee abroad in search of a more secure future.
Though ISIS has been all but defeated in this perpetually war-torn nation, the stark dwindling of Christian families indicates that the situation is far from stable. Out of the 5,000 families that once counted themselves members of St Joseph's Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad, just 150 remain.
"They feel there is no peace, law or justice here in Baghdad, and that our country has become a land of militias," Fr Nadheer Dako, parish priest at St Joseph's told The Telegraph.
Tragically, Fr Nadheer's church is now one of the last congregations still operating in the country’s capital. The emptying pews speak of a deeply insecure faith community and a country still reeling from the brutal actions of ISIS fighters.
"It is true that people are no longer getting kidnapped as much, and the Islamic State is gone," parishioner Nasib Hana Jabril explained to the Telegraph.
"But the infrastructure of the country has been ruined, and people want a better future, not so much for themselves but for their children."
With the immediate threat of persecution no longer present, Christian families now turn to simple and pressing needs like schooling, healthcare and jobs -- opportunities that are lacking in a country still plagued by violence.
Fr Nadheer, who has since returned to Baghdad after ministering in London for the past six years, said he has “noticed how the quality of education in Baghdad has gone down in nearly all the primary schools”.
“The new generation just have very little hope of making a life here anymore,” he added.
As Premier previously reported, last August the Archbishop of Erbil warned that the Christian community in Iraq was “perilously close to extinction".
Speaking to persecution charity Aid to the Church in Need at an event in London, Archbishop Bashar Warda said:
"In the years prior to 2003, we numbered as many as 1.5 million - six percent of Iraq's population. Today, there are perhaps as few as 250,000 of us left, maybe less. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom."
With the number of families depleting at a staggering pace, Fr Nadheer voiced a similar concern: “Will there still be a Christian community here in Baghdad in 2050?” he asked. “That is hard to say.”