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08/14/2019 Iraq (International Christian Concern) –  Basra’s Virgin Mary Chaldean Church last held a service in 2005, when most of its congregation fled the city because of violent persecution. This summer, the church has reopened following a $228k renovation funded by private and government banks. However, it was opened primarily to preserve the city’s Christian heritage, since the Christian population is largely nonexistent.

This speaks to a larger challenge facing Iraq’s dwindling Christian community: what to do with the empty churches? There is a strong push within certain local Christian circles to maintain abandoned churches, as a symbol of hope that Christianity can be reborn in Iraq. Others, however, have critiqued this approach. They argue that it is more important to provide jobs, security, and infrastructure repairs to areas that Christians are in the process of returning.

Over a decade ago, more than 1 million Christians lived in Iraq. But massive waves of violent persecution forced many out of the country. The last wave occurred in 2014, when ISIS swept into the Nineveh Plains. It is estimated that less than 250,000 Christians remain in Iraq. Most have not returned home following displacement.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].