Christians and other minorities who have lived in Iraq for
generations are in danger of disappearing for good, even after the
defeat of Islamic State, religious leaders have warned.
They spoke out as the United Nations, the armed forces, volunteers
and surviving civilians began reporting new murders and other atrocities
by IS as it fights to retain control of Mosul, its last remaining
Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil
said: "For 2,000 years, many of the towns on the Nineveh plain now
being liberated, such as Bartela, Karlais and Qaraqosh and others, were
known as Christian towns.
"Thousands of the people driven out from their homes by the genocidal
attacks of 2014 now live in the Archdiocese of Erbil with the
assistance of the Catholic Church.
"As these areas are retaken, we must not forget these Christians,
whose lands and homes were stolen, and who have been living as refugees
ever since. The military action will not end the nightmare they have
been living for two years. They need continued support, and a commitment
Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus,
the influential global Catholic charitable organisation, said: "While
welcoming the ongoing liberation of the Nineveh plain and Mosul, we must
not forget that the genocide begun by ISIS will continue through
attrition and neglect unless the United States and international
community prioritizes those groups that were targeted for extermination
and risk disappearing altogether.
"This must include direct financial support from our government that
actually reaches endangered groups like Christians and Yazidis. Those
Iraqi citizens who belong to these groups also need to be given equal
rights based on the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights.
"We must also insist that the two-tiered system of rights - resulting
in the second class citizenship of Christians and other non-majority
religious groups - end if we really want to ensure that such genocide
never again occurs in this region.
"Celebrations over the ongoing liberation of the historically
Christian towns of the Nineveh, should not obscure the fact those
minority groups who lived there for generations are now displaced and in
danger of disappearing."
Last Saturday the Iraqi Parliament banned the import, sale and
manufacture of alcohol - a move regarded by observers as an attack on
religious freedom as many Christians and Yazidis both consume alcohol
and have also for generations worked in th alcohol trade.
Yesterday, Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, told Christian Today that
the challenge now was to make sure that liberated towns and cities
would be safe for Christians and other minorities to return.
In her report published this week, the Center warned that the status
of Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in a post-ISIS Iraq is
becoming increasingly uncertain. The Christian population in the country
has fallen from 1.4 million in 2003 to little more than 200,000.