This past Monday, the inhabitants of the Kurdish region in Iraq went to the polls to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on Kurdish independence. Christians in the disputed Nineveh Plains fear that this will spark new violence just as they are starting to rebuild their houses after the defeat of ISIS. Overwhelmingly, Iraqi Kurds voted in favor of independence from Baghdad.
The referendum around Kurdish independence comes after a decades long strive for a Kurdish independent state. The opinions of Christians in the region differ, a fieldworker from the region explains: “There are Christians who are in favor of the independence, they are found mostly among those living in the Kurdish area. But others are against it.”
The stances of the Christian political parties in the Kurdish parliament are also divided. While the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, holding two of five Christian seats, leans towards a ‘yes.’ The owner of the other three Christian seats, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, is saying ‘no’ to the referendum to be even held because they don’t agree with including the Nineveh Plains in the area to vote on. They fear including this region will bring conflict to the Christians living there.
A local partner explains why the party might not be wrong in expecting conflict: “The Nineveh plains are a disputed area. So in the case of a civil war, this might become one of the most affected areas.” And the risk of a civil war is very realistic, she says: “The Iraqi government is being very fierce in their threats against this referendum, as well as neighboring countries.”
For the Christians from the Nineveh Plains, this is yet another setback. Not even a year after the liberation of their villages from ISIS, new violence is on their doorstep. While church committees are continuing with their rebuilding activities, individual Christians put their plans to return on hold.
Please join us to continue to pray for this country and region. As believers were hopeful to return home after ISIS’ defeat, they are now met with the impending threat of civil war and continued unrest.
“My prayer is that God will turn the current situation for good and that people will not loss their trust. That there may be peace here,” says a partner.