Aleteia: ACNUSA Director of Outreach on report on status of Christians in northern Iraq

THE SIZE OF THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY in northern Iraq could drop to just 23,000 by 2024 — just 20% of the population on the Nineveh Plains before the Islamic State group attacked in 2014 — according to a new report.

The number represents a fraction of a once-vibrant community that traces its roots to Apostolic times. Numbering about 1 million in the days before the first Gulf War, the community has since been decimated by war, economic turmoil and jihadism.

Aid to the Church in Need, which conducted the survey and issued the report, “Life after ISIS: New challenges for Christianity in Iraq,” said the trend would move the Christian community from the category of “vulnerable” to the critical category of “endangered with extinction.”

St. Kiryakos Church in Batnaya in wake of ISIS occupation

The study identifies the major challenges facing Iraqi Christians who returned to their hometowns on the Nineveh Plain, after fleeing the region for Kurdistan, following the ISIS invasion of the region in 2014.

According to the report, all Christians living in the area mention a lack of security, and 87% indicate that they feel it “very much” or “remarkably.” Almost 70% of Christians cite violent activity of local militias and the possibility of a return of ISIS as the main reasons for this fear; 69% say this is the primary reason why they may emigrate.

In addition to concerns about security, Christians list unemployment (70%), financial and administrative corruption (51%) and religious discrimination (39%) at the social level as the major challenges that continue to push Christians toward emigration.

We have the impression that ISIS is gone. Why should there be a problem anymore for Christians to live there?

[Edward Clancy:] One of the issues is the return of ISIS. Many people that we speak to say they just took off their uniforms and disappeared, but they’re still present in Iraq. The international fighters might have gone elsewhere to fight but would return if conditions allow.

It’s pretty universal whenever you speak to priests or people in Iraq. They say ISIS is just not visible.

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