Christians in Ainkawa celebrate Easter at home amid coronavirus lockdown

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A family in Ainkawa celebrate Easter on April 12, 2020. Photo: Mahdi Faraj / Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Christians in Ainkawa, a predominantly Christian neighborhood in the north of Erbil city celebrated Easter Sunday from their homes as the Kurdistan Region remains under coronavirus lockdown. 

“We are committed to the KRG Ministry of Health’s instructions. We are happy on this day,” one local resident told Rudaw.

“Happy Easter to the people of the world, Iraq and Kurdistan in particular. On this day, I wish a speedy recovery for coronavirus patients,” he said from outside his house in Ainkawa, accompanied by his wife and daughters- all dressed in colourful clothing for the holiday.

The Kurdistan Region has taken strict coronavirus containment measures including a month-long lockdown, which is set to expire on April 16, in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.  As of Sunday, 330 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Region. Of this figure, 145 have recovered and four have died. 

The Kurdistan Region is predominantly Muslim, but prides itself on freedom of religion. 

Churches of different denominations can be found across many cities and villages.

During the Islamic State (ISIS) rule across large parts of Iraq, thousands of Iraqi Christians fled their homes, seeking shelter in the Kurdistan Region.

In its 2018 report on religious freedom, the United States Department of State described Iraq as a country in “danger of losing its ancient Christian community.”

There is “increasing space for religious freedom” in the Kurdistan Region, the report stated, noting many members of religious minorities prefer to live in areas controlled by the KRG than Baghdad.

Around half a million Christians were estimated to live across Iraq prior to the rise of ISIS.

Christian community leaders have told Rudaw English that they estimate around 200,000-250,000 Christians remain split between the Kurdistan Region and elsewhere in Iraq, with many others having emigrated abroad.

With reporting by Zhelwan Z. Wali and Mahdi Faraj 

Video by Payam Sarbast