ICC Note: The impact of violence on the Christian community in Iraq has been massive. Over the past decade over a million Christians have left the country because of the direct persecution and the growth of religious extremism. Now ISIS has driven more than 100,000 Christians again from their homes. More than 90% are displaced according to Bishop Hazim.
10/21/2014 Iraq (Al-Monitor) – Greek Orthodox Bishop for Baghdad, Kuwait and their surroundings, Ghattas Hazim, realizes that the position assigned to him by the Holy Synod of Antioch, presided over by Patriarch John X Yazigi as patron of that diocese (the area under supervision of a bishop), is not easy.
Hazim is also aware that his mission might be legendary, and requires great effort to heal the wounds of the Christians in this Arab region, especially in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. This mission started in 1991, during Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, and continues today under different forms. The mission is to provide suitable circumstances to secure the Christians in their land and maintain the Christian presence and, in particular, the Orthodox presence in Mesopotamia.
Hazim is from the town of Mhardeh in the countryside of Hama, in Syria, which is home to over 20,000 Christians. He is the nephew of the late Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim. He was supposed to join his new diocese before the end of this year, where Yazigi would appoint him in his position, and he would preside over the Orthodox diocese in Kuwait.
Hazim emphasized the necessity of not making the Christians in Iraq feel alone. He described the priests of the parishes there as heroes and true fighters, since they never left the Orthodox residents, but cared for them and sought to answer all their needs despite the difficult circumstances.
Hazim revealed shocking figures to As-Safir about the Orthodox presence in Iraq. He said only 30 families out of 600 remain in Baghdad; the rest were displaced following the invasion of Kuwait, and there are fewer than 10 families left in Mosul.
In Iraq’s Basra, all the Orthodox families have been displaced after members of the families were killed or threatened. Indeed, over 90% of the Orthodox Christians in Iraq have been displaced due to the security chaos which has prevailed over the country for the past generation. Hazim hopes that Erbil, in the Kurdish region of Iraq, would be a haven for Christians since it looked like a promising region due to the size of the economic and trade investment, and since it “welcomes our sons who move there from all over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” Hazim said.