Iraqi President, Haider al-Abadi, announced this week “total victory” over Islamic State in Mosul. He further declared that the mission ahead was “to create stability”. Despite similar calls by Western politicians for the establishment of a pluralist society in which Iraq’s different religious groups can happily co-exist, it remains to be seen whether this can be achieved.
The abandoned Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, northern Iraq, where a once-thriving Christian community used to worship
The Iraqi Christian refugees we are caring for in Jordan have told us that their persecution began long before the arrival of Islamic State. Like many of Iraq’s minority religious groups, they lived in isolated pockets, often surrounded by Sunni and Shia populations hostile to their presence. Even the Kurds, who have provided a safe haven of sorts, have openly expressed antipathy towards the Christians, denying them access to health care and jobs.
Voices of the persecuted: Alen (top left), Ammar and family (top right),
sisters Afnan and Mariam with their mother (bottom left), Imad (bottom right)
We have heard many sad testimonies. Alen left his home town of Mosul after two young Muslim men threatened him in his shop, saying “this land is for Muslims, not Christians.” Ammar and his family were forced to flee the town of Qaraqosh to escape Salafi fanatics. Afnan explained how a Muslim friend turned on her shortly after the US-led invasion of Iraq, telling her she would “cut off her head”. Imad recounts how friends of his were murdered in their car because they were Christian. None of those we interviewed wish to return to Iraq. All are seeking asylum in the West.
Christian children at Ankawa IDP camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan,
receiving new clothes from our team on the ground
There are some who wish to return to their homes, most vocally the Assyrian Christians who come from northern Iraq. Many of them are still languishing in IDP camps in Kurdistan. We are feeding over 6,000 of them through our relief programmes. However, without a proper post-conflict resolution in Iraq, resettlement remains risky. Indeed, there is already talk of “Islamic State 2.0” rising from the ashes of defeat. What then for the Christians?
A typical scene in an IDP camp in Iraq Kurdistan
The fate of Iraq’s Christians still hangs in the balance and we need all the support we can get to help those brothers and sisters who are relying on us for food, shelter and health care. Please join us in our mission.
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