Former Iraqi lawmaker says number of Christians leaving Iraq rising

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by Hiwa Shilani |Christian Priests during a religious ceremony in front of a collapsed church in Nineveh governorate. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Christian population in Iraq continues to decrease as the religious minority continually looks for opportunities to escape discrimination in the country, an official announced on Sunday. Joseph Slewa, a former Iraqi lawmaker in the Christian bloc, said in a statement that Iraq’s Christians continue to leave Iraq permanently because they believe immigration is their only option. “In 1980, 1.8 million Christians lived in Iraq; however, unconfirmed data in 2014 showed that only 400,000 Christians remain in Iraq,” Slewa stated. When the so-called Islamic State emerged in Iraq in 2014, the Christian population was forced to take refuge in the Kurdistan Region or immigrate abroad to escape religious extremism and political instability. According to the former lawmaker, after the 2003 liberation of Iraq and the Islamic State’s military defeat, successive governments in Iraq continue to discriminate against certain religious minorities, forcing the Christians to leave the country. Even with reconstruction efforts underway in Christian-populated areas of Iraq’s Nineveh province after the defeat of the Islamic State, very few Christian residents have returned to their villages and cities because they fear the presence of possible sympathizers of the terror group. Editing by Karzan Sulaivany