The Iraqi government has set up a committee to document Christian persecution, according to Catholic news agency Agenzia Fides. The aim is to take appropriate measures to curb the violence against and abuse of Christians in Iraq, especially in Baghdad. The move comes after calls from a Christian member of the Iraqi Parliament and the leader of the Chaldean Patriarchate for greater protection of Christians.
The past few months has seen an increase in kidnappings of Christians and illegal expropriation of Christian-owned homes and land. These crimes will be a main focus of the investigations. The committee, which was set up by Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi, is being assisted in the collection of information by the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad. The Patriarchate delivered the first dossier, containing 14 cases of illegally taken houses and land to the leaders of the committee on Monday.
In Baghdad, four Christians have been kidnapped within two weeks in June and July; two of whom were found dead in spite of the ransom which was paid. According to the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Bagdad Beituna (‘Baghdad Our Home’), there have been more than “7,000 violations against properties belonging to Iraqi Christians in Baghdad’” since 2003. A Bagdad official says that almost 70 percent of the Baghdad’s Christian homes have been illegally taken.
Henriette Kats, persecution analyst for Open Doors World Watch Research, states: “This is a positive first step, by which the government acknowledges that something is wrong with the way Christians are being treated in Iraq and that this needs to change. It is the first time that the government is officially investigating this, after decades of discrimination and abuse.
“The establishment of the Islamic State (IS) in June 2014 has brought about a further radicalization of Iraqi society, a development that has been ongoing since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Corruption plays an important role in the persecution of Christians as can be seen in the ransoms demanded and the illegal taking of Christian-owned houses and land mentioned above.
“We see here a combination of the two persecution engines – Islamic extremism and organized corruption – where the vulnerable position of religious minorities, such as Christians, is being exploited. Corruption is deeply rooted in Iraqi society, right up to the highest levels. Also, it is especially people in or close to political power who are occupying not just Christian-owned homes, but also churches and monasteries.
“It will be hard to eradicate this. Acknowledgment and documentation of this phenomenon is a careful first step, which will need to be followed by bold and clear measures.”
Iraq is ranked #3 on Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. To support those displaced by IS in Iraq and Syria: Help feed an entire family for a month for just $50.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.