Iraqi Christians Want To Return Home But Need Compensation And Safety, Say Church Leaders

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ruth-gledhill Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Contributing Editor
An Iraqi Christian soldier stands at the Grand Immaculate Church during the first mass since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq, November 2. Reuters
Church leaders in Iraq have called for Christians to be compensated for what they have lost.

They also want the Iraqi government to guarantee their safety so they can return to Mosul and other traditionally Christian towns in the Nineveh Plain.

The next step will be meeting of Christian deputies in the Iraqi parliament and Kurdish regional government with the heads of political parties.

Iraq’s Christians are “anxious” about their future, the Chaldean Church in Iraq says in a statement today.

The prelates, hosted at their meeting in Erbil by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, say: “We stand by the demands of our suffering and anxious people about their future. Frankly, we will endeavor with all our influence to make the Christian component equal on the same level as other Iraqis, regardless of the number.”

Article Two of the Iraqi Constitution guarantees “full religious rights” for all individuals and the freedom of religious practice.

The Church leaders say: “This should not remain only words.”

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, centre, hosts the meeting of Middle East church leader in Erbil, Iraq to discuss the future of the Nineveh plain.Chaldean Patriarchate in Iraq

There were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq in 2003. Now some estimates put the number remaining as low as 200,000. Many hundreds of thousands are displaced within Iraq, having fled cities such as Mosul as Islamic State advanced.

The Church leaders say the displaced Christians from Mosul and the towns of the Nineveh Plain want to return to their homes, but on condition of safety and compensation for what they have lost and the reconstruction of what was destroyed by Daesh.

“They seek a peaceful continuation with their neighbours and to live together with respect, goodwill and cooperation as equal citizens.”

They call on the Iraqi State and the Government of Kurdistan to ensure these guarantees.

Also at the meeting were Patriarch Mar Georgis III Saliwa, Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, Youhanna Peter Mushi, Bishop of Mosul for Syrian Catholics, Necodems David’s Sharaf, Syrian Orthodox Bishop of Mosul, Bashar Matti Warda, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Basilious Yaldo, the Chaldean Patriarchate Auxiliary Bishop and Timathaous Qas Isha from the Ancient Church of the East.

Christians have lived in Mosul and the towns of the Nineveh Plain for many centuries in “an atmosphere of stable pluralism and cooperation with their neighbours” despite some episodes of violence and persecution, the statement says. It continues: “The atrocities that have been committed against them by Daesh and other terrorists, by way of displacement and seizing their homes and properties, has harmed and wounded them. These acts constitute crimes against humanity.”

The Church leaders also saluted the “heroic fighters” in the Iraqi armed forces, the Peshmerga, and the Popular Mobilisation and National Units as well as Christian guards who have come from all over Iraq.