Waad Esho

Waad Esho is a Christian man who grew up in Mosul, Iraq. He lives in Saskatoon now with his wife and three children. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC News)

On most days a group of Iraqi men gather together for a coffee at a Tim Hortons on 8th Street in Saskatoon. The friends have a lot in common. They are from the same country, and they are Christians.

Since Waad Esho immigrated to Canada in 2007, he has spent much of his free time with the group. He says having friends who share the same faith, and the ability to practice it together without fear, is something relatively new for him.

The 32-year-old is from Mosul, Iraq, a city that has been taken over by Islamic militants. He said he came to Canada to escape being killed because of his faith.

'If they see a Christian, they kill him, no matter what' - Waad Esho

Esho was raised by a Christian family in the city. He explained faith-based persecution has always been bad in Iraq, but now it is worsening as the violence intensifies.

"I'm a Christian, nobody like me," Esho said of his time in Iraq. "Now it is bad for Christians too, for all Christians, they kill all Christians."

Esho has Christian friends and family who are living in Iraq now. He said they all have been driven from their homes in Mosul by an Islamic militant group — who he referred to as 'the daj'  and are seeking refuge in northern Iraq near the country's border with Kurdistan.

He said the Kurds' army, known as the Peshmerga, is offering some protection for the displaced people, but many were not able to flee in time.

"It's a lot of Christian we have in Iraq. They [are] scared because those daj, if they see any Christian, they kill him, no matter what."

Esho said he and other Iraqi Christians in Saskatoon pray for persecuted Christians in Iraq, although he admitted it is hard to think about their situation while enjoying a free life in Canada.

Iraq Map

Reports estimate that 500,000 Christians living in Mosul, Iraq have fled the city to escape faith-based persecution this month. (CBC News)

"There's nothing we can do," Esho said.

Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled cities in Iraq to escape the growing violence. 

Currently, Iraq is entangled in a violent civil war that has created the worst crisis the country has seen since the last American troops withdrew in December 2011.