Washington, US (KRG.org) â€“
Mr Nimrud Baito Youkhana,
the Minister for Tourism in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Secretary-General of the Assyrian Patriotic Party, talked of significant progress in ensuring religious freedom in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.
During key meetings with Members of Congress, the Obama administration, and representatives of leading NGOs and the religious freedom community in the US, Minister Youkhana detailed how since the fall of Hussein, extremist groups targeted Christians and bombed their villages and churches, including his home town. This terrorism forced tens of thousands of Iraqis Christians to move to the Kurdistan Region where they were warmly welcomed and assisted.
The Minister commended highly language in the proposed Kurdistan constitution that affirms the rights of the Christian community in Iraq to have an autonomous administrative area in places where they are the majority.
â€œThe progress the KRG has made in protecting religious opportunity and encouraging free and unfettered religious practice was warmly received by all of those I had the honour of meeting,â€ Minister Youkhana said. â€œWe have reason to be proud and I was determined to make it clear that the KRG has been untiring in its efforts to ensure all religions in the Region are safe and strong. It is my wish that such progressive tolerance expands throughout Iraq.â€
Mr Qubad Talabani, the KRGâ€™s Representative to the US, hailed the Ministerâ€™s visit as an important reminder to all of the diversity of the Kurdistan Region and its commitment to human rights and freedoms.
â€œMinister Youkhanaâ€™s firm and clear words testifying to the KRG role in protecting and supporting Christianity throughout Iraq are crucial for our American friends to hear so as to better understand our determination in guaranteeing religious freedom within Iraqi Kurdistan,â€ Talabani said. â€œAlthough he is a high-ranking minister in the KRG, Minister Youkhana nevertheless speaks his own mind for his region, his political party and his religion.â€
After departing Washington, the Minister continued his mission to cities throughout the US for meetings with the Assysrian-Chaldean-Syriac communities.