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1/29/19 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is regarded as the spiritual leader for Iraq’s Shia Muslims and one of the most senior Shia clerics in the Islamic world. He is based in Najaf, Iraq. He has recently meet with the United Nations Investigative Team intended to advance accountability for the crimes committed by ISIS, a Sunni terrorist organization. During this meeting, the Ayatollah reportedly urged the UN team to pay specific attention to the crimes of ISIS against religious minorities, such as Christians in Mosul.

Religious sectarian conflicts have plagued Iraq for decades, with Christians often caught in the middle between warring Shia and Sunni factions. Iraqi Christians began leaving the country in waves following the invasion in 2003. The violence which prompted the waves of mass exodus would become steadily worse, eventually cumulating in ISIS taking over the Nineveh Plains in 2014.

Christians had made the Nineveh Plains their home in Iraq for centuries, but the violence of ISIS has left behind irreparable damage. Though defeated, the ghosts of ISIS haunt the region through the massive amount of destruction left behind. A lack of stability and security, combined with missing basic services such as water, have deterred many displaced Christians from returning home. Christians also continue to point to how quick many of their neighbors were to join ISIS in their genocidal ideology against religious minorities. A lack of community trust, particularly in regards to Mosul, remains prevalent throughout society.

For interviews with Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].