Only Christian KRG minister swears in on Bible burned by ISIS

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By Rudaw Ano Jawhar Abdulmasih Abdoka, the new KRG minister of Transportation and Communications, speaks about the new post on July 9, 2019, in Erbil, Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw video

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Ano Jawhar Abdulmasih Abdoka was sworn in as the minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Transportation and Communications using a Bible that was burned by Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Nineveh Plains, wanting to demonstrate that Christians will remain an essential component in the Kurdistan Region. The new KRG cabinet was sworn in on Wednesday during a session that began at 11 a.m. Abdoka will be the only minister who is a Christian in KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani’s new cabinet. “For me, as a Christian, as the only Christian minister in the new cabinet of the KRG, the Kurdistan Regional Government, I decided to swear on a biblical manuscript, part of which was burnt by ISIS members in the Nineveh Plains,” Abdoka told Rudaw on Tuesday. Ano Jawhar Abdulmasih Abdoka stands in the Kurdistan Region parliament, Erbil, on July 10, 2019, after being confirmed as the KRG minister of Transportation and Communications. Photo: Rudaw video “It is a challenge that we as Christians, Chaldeans, Assyrians and Syriacs are remaining in the land of our ancestors. The Nineveh Plains, Iraq, Mesopotamia and Kurdistan are our lands, and we are remaining here with the help of our friends in Kurdistan Region,” added Abdoka, who also heads the National Unity Alliance party. Abdoka explained he had borne witness to the “horrible atrocities” committed by ISIS especially against minority components like Christians, Yezidis and Kakais, particularly in Iraq’s Nineveh. Everyone was “affected” by ISIS, Abdoka acknowledged. In his ministry, Abdoka says he wants to provide services to people in a “modern” and “developed” method. A portion of the biblical manuscript that Ano Jawhar Abdulmasih Abdoka used to be sworn in as the new KRG minister of Transportation and Communications on July 10, 2019, at the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region, Erbil. Photo: Rudaw video “We are very optimistic about working hand-in-hand, together in the new cabinet with the Prime Minister in order to be able to provide substantial, active, and fully-studied services to the children of the Kurdistani nation,” Abdoka detailed. The Yezidi, Turkmen and Christian minorities will be represented in the new cabinet following last year’s parliamentary election in the Kurdistan Region on September. The Yezidis will have the posts of adviser to the parliament speaker, adviser to the prime minister, the undersecretary for an unspecified ministry, and the director-general in the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, Shingal Mayor Mahma Khalil told Rudaw on Tuesday. Christianity is one of the recognized religions of Iraq, but internal disagreements between Orthodox and Catholic sects have left the groups politically fragmented, in a country where religion often aligns with politics. Minority groups are afforded 11 seats in the 111-member legislature of the Kurdistan Region. The last census in Iraq was in 1987, when 1.5 million Christians were counted. Prior to the rise of ISIS in 2014, local groups estimate the Christian population stood at 400,000-600,000. Roughly half have left Iraq since 2014, and around 130,000 sought shelter in the Kurdistan Region. Iraqi Christians were forced to flee their towns and villages across the Nineveh Plains and from the city of Mosul when ISIS militants launched a lightening campaign through the region. Translation by Mohammed Rwanduzy