Church in northern Iraq has voiced its opposition to suggestions that an
enclave should be created to safeguard non-Muslims fearful of returning
to live among their Muslim neighbours.
Rasche, aid co-ordinator for the Catholic diocese of Erbil in northern
Iraq, also said that the likelihood of Christians returning to live in
the city of Mosul, formerly home to thriving Christian communities, was
as Christians and Yezidis were driven from their homes by Islamic State
jihadists in 2014, but with the group’s imminent demise in Iraq,
minority communities are questioning whether they can return home, or
whether their Sunni Muslim neighbours may have become sympathetic to the
ideology of IS. Some Assyrian Christian politicians, and some US
Christians, have favoured the creation of an enclave, but others have
warned it could become a ghetto and further increase Christians’
“There aren’t enough people left for that to work in the favour of the Christians,” said Mr Rasche.
Speaking at a
briefing in London last week, Mr Rasche continued: “To put this small,
small, people together in one place … they would be tremendously
vulnerable,” he added.
Due to emigration
as a result of targeted violence, the number of Christians in Iraq has
fallen from around 1.4m in 1987 to only around 200,000 today. Other
non-Muslim minorities have also been forced to flee their homes.
Instead, he said,
the Catholic Church believed that Iraqi Christians’ future lay in full
integration, full participation and equal rights.
The question of
whether Christians from the towns and villages surrounding Mosul in the
Nineveh Plains could return home would need to be decided on a town by
town basis, Mr Rasche said. Christians were waiting to see how regional
politics would settle after the recapture of Mosul. However in the city
itself, where in 2014 many Christians were turned out by their
neighbours, “the likelihood of Christians returning to Mosul is
He noted that
Nineveh Plains region, which lies south of Kurdistan, is currently split
between control by the Iraqi army and control by Kurdish Peshmerga
forces. The latter is “relatively stable” while the former he described
as “incredibly chaotic,” being fought over by Shia and Christian
Just as Sunni
Muslims have feared marginalisation under the Shia rise to power that
followed Saddam Hussein’s ousting in 2003, so minorities fear that the
Islamisation of society that has begun will leave ever less room for
non-Muslims and more moderate interpretations of Islam.
At the briefing,
Christopher Segar, the Government’s former head of mission in Iraq and a
trustee of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle
East (FRRME), said that in purely pragmatic terms, the wisest policy was
to ensure a “pluralist society, a multi-religious, multi-ethnic society
in Mesopotamia, and not to leave existing trends to play out in the
next few years”.