14 may 2017
Head of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in Iraq's Nineveh Plains have
called for the establishment of a safe haven under international
protection for the country's increasingly persecuted Christians.
three main Iraqi Churches, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac
Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church have in a joint
statement Friday called on authorities to set up a safe haven for the
Christians in the volatile Nineveh province where diverse ethnic and
religious group have long clashed over territory and dominance.
security and protection of Christian localities in Nineveh Plain, a
free zone, and international protection, under United Nations, away from
conflicts and rivalries," the head of the Churches write in the joint
statement calling for safeguarding the "rights of Christian communities
in historical Nineveh Plains."
The statement comes amid public
announcements from a Shiite cleric who in challenging remarks described
the country's Christians as "infidels."
In his public statements
Ali Mousavi, head of the Shiite Waqf bureau, an influential Shiite
institution in the country, has said the Christians who chose not to
convert to Islam must pay taxes, the so called jazzya, or leave the
"Jihad should be implemented in regard to the
Christians in order for them to convert to Islam, either they will
become Muslims or we must fight them, or they ought to pay jazzya,"
Mousavi said to his followers recently prompting wide Christian
The Iraqi government has in the past offered arms
and combat training to Christian recruits who have volunteered to join a
new force based in the disputed Nineveh province. Also the Kurdish
Peshmerga troops have patrolled large parts of the Nineveh Plains which
include many Christian localities.
Iraq was home to more than 1.5
million Christians before the country plunged into a sectarian conflict
in the mid-2000. But many left the country after systematic attacks on
their neighborhoods in Baghdad and elsewhere.
According to reports
from the office of Human Rights Committee in Kurdistan Region, the
number of Christians in Baghdad has decreased to around 90,000 over the
past decade with many of the young Christians leaving for exile.
Christian communities in historical Nineveh Plains should be granted
their rights to administer their affairs in relation to other
communities, according to the constitution and the law and the 1957
census," the head of the Churches write in the statement.
last December, Government officials said that more than one hundred
churches and monasteries in Mosul alone have been demolished by ISIS
militants since 2014. But Christian sites have also frequently been
targeted by extremist groups elsewhere in the country including the 2010
October attack on the Syrian Church in Baghdad that killed over 50
people, including many worshipers.