Church Leaders Concerned Over Future of Christianity in Iraq After Years of Restlessness in the Country

Iraqi Christians attend a mass on Christmas at St. Joseph Chaldean church in Baghdad, Iraq December 25, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

The Islamic State has been defeated and bombings and kidnappings have also decreased, but Iraq’s Christians still don’t find the cradle of Christianity livable and continue to leave the country that has now become a land of militias, causing concerns among church leaders.

St. Joseph’s parish in Baghdad once had 5,000 families, but the number has now reduced to 150 thanks to a mass exodus in the last decade to the West. “They feel there is no peace, law or justice here in Baghdad, and that our country has become a land of militias,” the parish priest, Father Nadheer Dako, told The Telegraph.

A parishioner, Nasib Hana Jabril, further explained, “It is true that people are no longer getting kidnapped as much, and the Islamic State is gone. But the infrastructure of the country has been ruined, and people want a better future, not so much for themselves but for their children.”

Christians are also concerned about their safety, as they don’t have traditional tribal networks for self-defense. “We have no tribe here, so if things go wrong, there is nobody here to help us,” the parishioner revealed.

Dako, who earlier served as a priest in London, confirmed what the parishioner said. “Returning here from London after six years, I’ve noticed how the quality of education in Baghdad has gone down in nearly all the primary schools. The new generation just have very little hope of making a life here anymore.”

If Christians continue to leave, Dako fears, “Will there still be a Christian community here in Baghdad in 2050?”

The persecution facing Christians and other minorities in Iraq is “unprecedented,” said Loay Mikhael, head of foreign relations for the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, on Wednesday at the National Prayer Breakfast sideline event on religious persecution worldwide, co-hosted by the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and 21Wilberforce.

He explained that because of persecution at the hands of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or IS, the Christian population in Iraq dwindled from 1.5 million to just 250,000. He said his own family was forced to relocate due to persecution.

“We are all over the world,” he said, “not because of our choice, but because we were forced to flee. The challenge is tremendous.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Anugrah Kumar