Iraq minister says Christians should stay and rebuild country

by Daniel Blake

The German interior minister has been criticised by an Iraqi official for encouraging EU countries to offer refugee status to Iraqi Christians.

Wolfgang Schaeuble made an urgent request in April 2008 for Christians to be offered refugee status in Europe. The EU rejected the request on the grounds that asylum could not be offered on religious grounds.

In a recent development, Asghar al-Moussawi, an Iraqi deputy minister responsible for refugees and displaced persons, said that the government of Iraq opposed foreign offers of asylum to the country’s Christians.

Al-Moussawi said the invitation was totally unjustified, “especially as the security situation in Iraq is stable. It is not reasonable that Iraqis leave their country,” reports Press TV.

His comments came as the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, held talks with high-level Iraqi officials.

Al-Moussawi claimed that Iraq needed all its people to stay in the country to help in the rebuilding. According to AFP he said, “To encourage a group of any particular faith to leave the country is against international law, and causes more harm than benefit to those people.”

Just last week, 12 representatives of churches in Iraq vowed to work together with Iraqi citizens to rebuild peace in the country.

“The solution to current conditions lies not in emptying Iraq of its human resources,” said the leaders at a meeting in Dar Sayedat Al Jabal, Lebanon, organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The leaders stressed the right for Christians to live freely in Iraq.

“Christians have belonged to Iraq since the nation’s birth [and] have the right to live freely,” they said.

Christian leaders say that 250,000 Christians have left Iraq following the invasion by the US and its allies in 2003. Before the war there were reported to be 800,000 Christians in Iraq.

Last October, 14 Iraqi Christians were murdered in the city of Mosul leading to a mass migration of 15,000 Christians fleeing the city.