ERBIL, Iraq — A new report from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is sounding the final warning bells for the world that Iraq’s Christians are continuing to leave in greater numbers than they are returning to their homeland on the Nineveh Plains in the aftermath of ISIS’ 2014 invasion and genocide.
Unless critical changes are made, Iraq’s Christians are on the trajectory to extinction after 2,000 years of witness to Jesus Christ in Iraq.
ACN estimates that 69% of Christians have thought about leaving Iraq as the security, economic and political situation takes its toll on them. Out of 102,000 Christians that called the Nineveh Plains home before ISIS’ invasion, there may be only 23,000 Christians by 2024 — unless the international community acts now.
But the situation contains hope so long as decisive action is taken without delay. Based on ACN’s report and conversations with Iraqi Christians and other key experts, the Register has found these five things can change the trajectory for Iraq’s Christians from leaving to returning and renewing peace and prosperity for Iraq.
Christians Need an Overhaul of Iraq’s Security and the State’s Sovereignty Over Its Territory Restored
Christians in Northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plains are caught amid a patchwork of ethno-religious factions where the Iraqi state has limited ability to project authority. If anything, what is happening to the Christians is an international bellwether for how weak the Iraqi state really is, and foreign actors such as Iran and Turkey are taking advantage of Iraq’s weak internal security.
“The present security system in Iraq is a complete failure,” Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil told the Register. Archbishop Warda said the Iraqi people — Christians, Yazidis and Muslims —suffer from this situation.
The immediate issue for the Christians of Nineveh are the Shabak militias backed by Iran. The Shabaks were also violently attacked and displaced by ISIS, but they have used the fight against ISIS to establish themselves in villages and homes that belonged to the Christians before ISIS invaded in 2014. Bartella, for example, an almost exclusively Christian village before ISIS, is now majority Shabak.
According to a new report from Aid to the Church in Need, 24% of Christians say they are negatively impacted by militia or hostile groups and report psychological trauma, theft, displacement, physical injury and extortion.
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