Christian Iraqi Refugees and Other Religious Minorities Still Unsure if Returning Home is Safe

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom is trying to help religious minorities return home to Iraq, but returning to a post-ISIS Iraq presents an array of complications. Anne Hamming of Tent Schools International tells us that the Christian Iraqi refugees its partners serve in Jordan are unsure if returning home is actually safe.

Lasting Effects of ISIS

Many Christian Iraqis call northern Iraq, the area known as the Nineveh province, home. Hamming notes this is the same ancient city of Nineveh in the Old Testament. Today, the province has one major city but is mainly scattered with small towns and villages, previously home to ethnic Assyrians. In 2014, ISIS targeted the area, forcing religious minorities to flee. Catch up on the major events of Iraq’s history here. Three years later, Iraqi forces pushed ISIS out, but few religious minorities have returned.

“Then there’s the issue of what will they return to. Homes and businesses were destroyed. There are even reports that they’re struggling to reclaim a clear title to their properties. So, they may not have homes, they may not have their businesses, and they may not even have the legal due process to get their property back,” Hamming explains.

Furthermore, some of the residents in the Nineveh province marked the homes of their Christian neighbors with the Arabic symbol for “Christian” ahead of ISIS’s arrival. Had these Christians not fled, the actions of their neighbors would have condemned them when ISIS arrived.

If these Iraqis do return home, they will return to neighborhoods filled with life-threatening betrayal. While not impossible, it is unlikely the sentiments which led their neighbors to sign their death sentence have vanished.

Explore this photo essay published in the Atlantic on Iraqi Christians return home.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Mission Network News, Bethann Flynn