(JNS.org) Despite finding temporary refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan in the wake of the invasion by jihadists from the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) terror group, Iraq’s top Christian leaders believe that the community is in the process of disappearing.
“We are in the process of disappearing, just as the Christians in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and North Africa have disappeared. And even in Lebanon they now constitute only a minority,” Archbishop Yousif Mirkis, head of the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Kirkuk, told the Catholic charity group Aid to the Church in Need.
Iraqi Christians, despite being a minority, have long been important to the country’s social fabric by operating many schools, hospitals, and charities, in addition to their disproportionate representation as engineers, doctors, writers, and journalists.
But as a result of the invasion by ISIS, many Iraqi Christians have fled to Iraq’s Kurdistan region, which has been Iraq’s most prosperous and stable region over the last decade.
“Not only is there security here, but the government is prepared to listen to our concerns. This became evident in the present refugee crisis,” said Archbishop Matti Ward, head of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil. “The Kurdish government has opened the borders to Christians.”
Before 2003, it was estimated that around 130,000 Christians lived in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, but only about 10,000 remained before the recent ISIS invasion. Overall, nearly two-thirds of Iraq Christians have fled the country since 2003.