BAGHDAD — The president of the Rafeedain group in Iraqi Parliament, Yonadam Kanna, reported in a Parliament session that over 700 thousand Iraqi Christians have left the country due to the conflict.

Statements from Kanna come after British members of Parliament sent a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron urging the recognition of the Islamic State (IS) targeting of minorities as genocide.

Kanna, who is also the Secretary General of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, expressed concern about the situation of Christians in a meeting of the Iraqi Parliament providing an overview of the last three decades in Iraq.

Migration and departure from Iraq began en mass during the Saddam Hussein regime. According to Kanna, the lack of church bells ringing for New Years is symbolic of the situation for the Christian minority. Traditionally, church bells are rung for New Years but this year there was silence.

After the formation of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, many people were forced from their homes, including Christians. Many Iraqi Christians sought refuge in the Kurdistan Region after displacement and others left the country to seek asylum. Following the arrival of IS, Iraqi Christians have experienced harassment and churches vandalized, creating a sense of fear among the minority group.

Christians in Iraq are considered one of the oldest, continuous Christian communities in the world. The majority are indigenous Eastern Aramaic-speaking ethnic Assyrians. In Iraq, Christians numbered about 1.5 million in 2003, representing just over 6% of the population of the country. The number continues to decrease from the 12% estimated in 1947.