03/05/2021 Iraq (International Christian Concern) – Christians and minority communities in Iraq have struggled with returning to their homelands and finding it sustainable to do so. In a country decimated by ISIS, the pursuit of terrorist-organization PKK by Turkey causes further instability as highlighted in ICC’s February Transitional Justice Report. Yet, Pope Francis’ upcoming historic visit to Iraq, signifies the hope that change is coming and Iraq’s Christian community may once again flourish.
Turkey and Iran’s rivalry over Mosul and each country’s involvement in Iraq serve as a reminder that international influence is strong in particularly northern Iraq. Iran recently condemned Turkey’s pursuit of the PKK well into Iraq’s borders. Turkey’s bombing of the mountainous border zone provides further uncertainty and instability to the poor Christian farmers living in the region. Turkey claims its interest in Iraq is to drive out the PKK. Yet both Turkey and Iran continue their proxy conflict surrounding vested interest in Mosul and its oil reserves, each hoping that they will be strategically placed when the right time arrives.
As these conflicts continue to play out, there is yet hope for Christians and other minorities. The long-awaited Yazidi Female Survivor Bill has finally passed the Iraqi parliament and incorporates Christians and other minorities, in addition to men who escaped the mass killings. The original bill proposed to provide a percentage of jobs and fixed salaries and land to Yazidi female ISIS survivors and was later amended to include the provisions above. This bill passage is seen as a success to the minority communities as it is also the first time legal documentation acknowledges the Yazidi genocide.
Pope Francis’ upcoming visit on Sunday, March 7 also indicates the hope and investment for returning Christians. Pope Francis will visit what is known as the Church Square during his time in Iraq and offer prayers for the community. Four historic churches lay in ruins after they were utilized by ISIS for administrative purposes, including a jail and a court, and then subjected to airstrikes in attempts to push the terrorist group out. Nearly all churches in Mosul were used by ISIS in some manner and attempts to rebuild and restore the local Christian community is in an effort to encourage confidence in their return. According to a recent posts by Twitter account Mosul Eye, the promise of the Pope’s visit significantly increased infrastructure efforts by the government. Roads are being paved that the government neglected to address for years in addition to street clean-ups and building restoration. While these improvements are helpful, they showcase the inability of the government to act without significant pressure and are not representative of the normal status.
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