Christian leader calls for improved security in Iraq to facilitate return of IDPs to their areas

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A still from the press conference of the leader of the Syriac Orthodox Church Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II in Erbil on June 6, 2019. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A lack of security is preventing displaced Christians in Iraq from returning to their areas, the leader of the Syriac Orthodox Church Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said on Sunday. “The most important reason that prevents [displaced Christians] from returning to their areas is that they do not feel safe and secure,” the Patriarch said during a press conference following his arrival in the Kurdistan Region capital. Members of the Christian faith are estimated to make up about two percent of the Kurdistan Region’s roughly 5.9 million population. Christians, just like other minority groups in the country, have long suffered persecution in Iraq. In 2014, when the so-called Islamic State emerged in northern, western, and central Iraq, tens of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes, with many seeking refuge in the autonomous Kurdish region. Patriarch Aphrem called on the central government in Baghdad and the regional government in Erbil to do more to protect and provide a peaceful environment for displaced peoples who return to their areas. Related Article: UN says over 70 percent of mines still under rubble in Iraq post-ISIS In late January, the Patriarch visited the Kurdistan Region and met with senior officials to discuss the situation of displaced people in the region. The religious leader is in Erbil again and is among senior figures, officials, and diplomats who will attend Nechirvan Barzani’s presidential inauguration on Monday. Aphrem said he hoped the era of the future president would be as prosperous as that of former Kurdistan Region president Masoud Barzani. Editing by Karzan Sulaivany