The Iraqi government has for the first time begun collecting and documenting statistics on Christian persecution in the country. Some of the figures include 7,000 violations against property belonging to Christians since 2003 and a decrease in the Christian population of Iraq of over a million during the same timeframe. One report in June claimed that in Baghdad alone, Islamists have seized 70% of Christians’ homes illegally.
Iraqi authorities have set up a committee to investigate claims of abuse and violence against Christians.
The committee was set up on the orders of Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi, and aims to counter in particular the escalation of kidnappings and illegal expropriation of homes and land which in recent months Iraqi Christians have suffered. The heads of the Committee have already visited the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad and spoke with Patriarch Louis Raphael I in order to start collecting data and information about the abuses suffered by Christians. In particular, the first step is to carry out a census of the real estate abusively taken from Christian families, collecting the title deeds and indicating the individual, groups and corporate bodies that now benefit of illegally expropriated properties. The parishes and Christian communities will be able to also provide information to the security committee regarding the cases of kidnapped Christians including clues to identify the perpetrators of kidnappings.
Government officials and church leaders have expressed their concerns that the country has not done enough to protect Christians.
A Christian member of Iraq’s parliament, Imad Youkhana, issued a statement on July 9 calling for greater protections for the country’s Christian population. He branded the kidnappings parts of an intimidation campaign bent on forcing Iraqi Christians out of the country, and warned that it was threatening Iraq’s unity.
The Iraqi Chaldean Church recently issued a statement of their own:
It is unfortunate that the security situation continues to deteriorate, and that some individuals and groups exploit it to carry out the kidnapping of innocent people in order to gain sums of money and to terrorize civilians. In less than two weeks, they kidnapped four Christians…
This is not the first time that Christians have been kidnapped since the fall of the regime.
There are also incidents where evil people are falsifying the documents of Christian homes and seizing them and their household goods. They also send them threatening messages through their mobile phones ordering them to leave their jobs. This outrageous behavior causes anguish and destroys the national mosaic of Iraqi society, weakening the prestige and authority of the state.
Christians are indigenous citizens, and everyone praises their morality, their patriotism, and their roots in this country. For hundreds and hundreds of years they have contributed to its civilization and culture.
The government committee will also focus on the number of Christians who have been kidnapped in recent months. In June and July alone, terrorists have kidnapped four Christians, two of whom they killed.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / MyImages – Micha