Five Christian seats in Iraqi Parliament approved

The beleaguered Christian community in Iraq may see a ray of hope as Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court approved recently the results of the March election, which include five Christian seats in the Iraqi parliament, said.

The five Christian seats comprise part of 14 seats in the Iraqi parliament that are held by non-Muslims. The legislature has a total of 325 seats. Last term, Christians only held two seats, said.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Council , before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 there were about 1.4 million Christians in this Muslim-dominated nation of nearly 30 million, USA Today reported.

Since then, about 50 percent of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country, taking refuge in neighboring Jordan, Syria, Europe and the USA, according to USA Today. Regional manager Aidan Clay of the International Christian Concern Middle East said, “If they fail to increase security [for Iraqi Christians], we may soon see the extinction of Christianity in Iraq.”

Sister Maria Hanna, who has lived in the Immaculate Virgin convent in Mosul for 52 years, said the convent has been attacked by extremists some 20 times since 2003, USA Today said.

They used to have 55 Assyrian Catholic nuns, but now there are only four. Recently a bomb exploded in the courtyard just moments after Sister Hanna received an anonymous phone call warning her and the nuns to leave, USA Today said.

Other attacks were a rocket-propelled grenade, a car bomb and a propane can that was set on fire in front of the convent gate, USA Today reported.

Most Iraqi Christians are Chaldeans, Eastern-right Catholics who are autonomous from the Vatican but still recognize the pope’s authority. In many of the Chaldean churches in Iraq, services are recited in ancient Aramaic, the language of Jesus, USA Today said.

The other major group of Christians in Iraq is made up of Assyrians, like Sister Hanna. She has written letters to the Iraqi Christian Diaspora to chronicle the experiences of the remaining Christians in Mosul, and recently visited Washington to meet with several members of Congress to lobby for more pressure on the Iraqi government to protect Christians.

Yonadam Kanna, one of the five Christian Iraqi Parliament members and secretary general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, said that with larger representation in the legislature, Christians in parliament will push for security, more job opportunities, the end of discrimination policies and compensation for Christians who fled Iraq, to return what was stolen and what was lost, said.

Kanna is hopeful that if Christians are safer in Iraq, many who fled will return.

He said, “We will now be in a much better legal condition, and much more respected than we were under the persecution and discrimination policies of Saddam times. We are full with hope that all together we will be able to do much more than we had achieved in the last seven years,” said.