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Christians in Iraq and Kurdistan

Thursday, January 21, 2010

 

Meg Munn MP on a recent visit to the Kurdistan region in Iraq investigated the position of Christians in the country, including the region of Kurdistan itself. She had two valuable meetings; firstly with the Bishop of Erbil, and secondly with Sarkis Aghajan Mamando, a prominent Kurdistan Christian and former Deputy Prime Minister in the regional government.

 

Both men advised Meg that the Kurdistan region is very safe for Christians, and that they are able to move about, attend church and work without any problems. The Bishop explained that the numbers of Christians in the Kurdistan region has grown from around 25,000 in the early 1990s to 150,000 now. The Kurdistan Regional Government is very supportive of Christians, and has 5 reserved seats to ensure their representation.

 

As a people who have themselves suffered oppression over many years, the Kurds readily offer help to others now being persecuted. In each area where Christians have settled in Kurdistan the regional government have built churches, and found employment for those with the appropriate qualifications. There is no discrimination against Christians in public life and there are villages and areas of towns where Christians are in the majority, with protections in place to ensure others cannot move in and change the local character.

 

Many Christians from the south of Iraq have taken refuge in the Kurdistan region as they feel it is unsafe to stay in their homes. In recent times there has been a significant rise in attacks against the Christian minority in the south. Some academics and analysts believe that the Christians are seen as representatives of the ‘invading west’,  adding to local disputes about land and work, with unemployed young men with nothing else to do.

 

In December of last year, churches were bombed twice in Mosul, and Christians were singled out for killings or kidnappings. According to ‘Aid to the Church in Need’, a project of the Roman Catholic Church, the Christian population in Iraq has dropped from 1.4 million in 1987 to barely 300,000 today. It is not only Christians that have suffered, other minorities such as Jews have faced difficulties. But of course, the biggest toll has been in clashes between Iraqi’s Sunnis and Shia Muslim communities.

 

The UK representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government has produced a report about the situation of Christian in Kurdistan available on the regional government’s website Report: The status of Christians in the Kurdistan Region

 

Meg is Chair of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq All-Party Parliamentary Group.


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