Iraq Christians consider joining Kurdistan

 MOSUL, Iraq, Aug. 7 (UPI) — Joining the region of Kurdistan may offer better security and general prosperity for the Iraqi Christian community in Mosul, church leaders said Thursday.
Josef Yohannes, a priest in a Christian village in northern Ninawa province, said many in his community feel Baghdad looks upon them as unwanted refugees and fails to preserve their rights in Iraq.

“If we join the Kurdistan Region, the Christian community will then be 15 percent or 20 percent of the Kurdistan Region’s population; then our rights will be more preserved,” he told the Kurdish Globe.

In response to rising violence from al-Qaida and other militias targeting the Christian community, many areas have established their own civilian forces, called “Guard of Churches,” to protect themselves from violence.

Yohannes said violence against his community has progressed to the point that many Christians are afraid to work for fear of retribution.

“After the war in 2003, all the Christians who used to work in the factories and government establishments in Mosul left work due to insurgents’ threats,” he said.

His sentiments follow those of Pope Benedict XVI who expressed concern over the safety of Iraqi Christians following a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Maliki, for his part, pledged more security for the Christian community, adding he planned to convene a summit of various church leaders in Iraq to display the country’s religious tolerance.