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6/8/2023 Iraq (International Christian Concern)After years of persecution and destruction, the Christian in community in Iraq takes a step forward as they start a new television channel conducted entirely in Syriac, the traditional language of Christians in the area.  

The public TV channel may indicate a step forward in the wider acceptance of Christians across Iraq. 

Syriac is an ancient language derived from the language of Aramaic which is most known as the language that Jesus spoke while He was here on Earth. Historically, Syriac has been used by Christians in schools and in church services.  

Twenty years ago, there were 1.5 million Christians in the country. According to the United States’ yearly report on International Religious Freedom, this number is down to just 150,000 Christians in 2023 due to multiple wars and unrest. Many people sought to find safer places to reside, leaving the remaining Iraqi Christians secluded in the Northern portion of the country.  

The creation of a Syriac television channel may be helpful to more than just Christians in Iraq. As many countries in the Middle East continue to be ravaged by persecution and violence, the creation of a Christian-specific television channel may encourage other neighboring countries to allow for similar avenues of accepting religious diversity. 

The conditions for Christians in Iraq have improved in the last few years. The historic visit from the Pope and his meeting with Iraq’s former Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, established the National Day of Tolerance and Coexistence in Iraq. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) quoted one Iraqi resident experiencing this occasion as saying, “I can’t describe my happiness, it’s a historic event that won’t be repeated. 

After the visit from the Pope in 2021, NPR quoted a 59-year-old Iraqi schoolteacher saying, “It will attract people to the country. They will hear about it in Italy and France and elsewhere, that a senior cleric went to Iraq, and was protected, and came to no harm. 

As Iraq continues to demonstrate its acceptance of other religions, there is an increase in hope for the centuries-old Christan population to return to their home country – the home of Abraham, the home of our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

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