As the humanitarian crisis worsens in Iraq and Syria, pressure is mounting on the New Zealand government to offer refuge to Christians facing persecution.
Iraqi and Syrian Christians in New Zealand fear for family members trying to flee Islamic State militants, who are killing Christians who refuse to convert to Islam.
From a distance of 16,000 kilometres, Assyrian Christians from Iraq and Syria can only pray as their people suffer at the hands of Islamic State militants.
The Sunni Muslim group has been telling Christians, Yazidi and Shi'ite Muslims to convert to their faith or be killed.
In the latest atrocity, they reportedly massacred 80 men from the local Yazidi religion in northern Iraq and took women and children captive.
Assyrians there say the future for Christians and Christianity in Iraq and Syria is bleak. Now they're asking New Zealand for help.
"We want from the New Zealand government to accept refugees from Syria and Iraq, especially who have relatives here," says Assyrian community spokesman Khaled Tomas.
But Prime Minister John Key won't budge on New Zealand's annual refugee quota of 750, even though reports in Australia say the Abbott government is considering taking 4000 Syrian and Iraqi Christians.
"I think we took a group of 150 Syrian refugees as part of our UNHCR quota, and we're always looking to see on a humanitarian basis what we could do," says Mr Key.
It's little comfort for Kiwi Assyrians desperately trying to protect their loved ones and one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.
"We had churches in Mosul for 1800 years, and they're all destroyed," says Iraqi priest Father Kanon Toma.
Now the terrified Christians and Yazidis are prepared to leave their ancient cultures behind and start again.
The community in New Zealand has only one wish – for them to have a better life.
source: newshub archive