PM Kadhimi calls on Christians to return to Iraq

Author: Dilan Sirwan

Publication Date: 14/8/2021

Source: Rudaw

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Saturday called on displaced Christians to return to Iraq, and while Christian religious figures consider it as an “honest and sincere” gesture, some have told Rudaw that Christians need more to be able to return home.

Kadhimi met on Saturday with the Cardinal Mar Louis Raphael Sako, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, and an accompanying delegation of bishops across Iraq and the globe.

“The Prime Minister called on Christian immigrants and from the rest of the Iraqi sects to return to Iraq, the country of all, stressing that full support will be provided to facilitate this return and stability,” read a statement from his office.

Kadhimi’s call comes as only a few hundred thousand Christians are left in the country. Following the US-led invasion of 2003, sectarian warfare prompted followers of Iraq’s multiple Christian denominations to flee, and attacks by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014 hit minority communities especially hard. According to data from Erbil’s Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda, there were more than one million Christians in Iraq before 2003. Fewer than 300,000 remain today.

Many Christians displaced to the Kurdistan Region had previously told Rudaw English that the best option for them is to leave the country.

Archbishop Warda, who was also present in the meeting, told Rudaw English on Saturday that even though Prime Minister Kadhimi’s call is sincere, there is a lot that has to be done.

“I think it is an honest and sincere call,” he said adding, “although he promised that he would help the families with a zero interest loan to establish a business, but of course you need more than this.”

“Many thousands of families left Baghdad since 2003 because of the violence and many of them left the country, many others stay in Kurdistan because they have a sense of security there,” Archbishop Warda added. “It is the work of the government and the people together in making and giving a sense of security for the Christians to stay.”

“Those who have left since 2003 have left because of bombings, kidnappings, killings, threatening for properties, religious persecution,” said Warda, saying that the capital does not appeal to many in the diaspora.

Speaking of the Nineveh Plains, he said “the whole area is still unsettled when it comes to security. It is a disputed area, there are so many forces, units, and militias controlling the area, and there is a lack of livelihood programs that also makes it difficult. I would say we probably we have to wait until the whole issue of the election and forming the government, and after that we would know exactly where things are heading.”

Kadhimi’s meeting comes five months after Pope Francis undertook a historic visit to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, holding mass services in Baghdad and Erbil, as well as visiting Mosul, Qaraqosh, and Nasiriyah. Following his visit, the pontiff also called on Iraqi Christians to return from abroad.


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