Iraqi government begs Christians who fled ISIS to return to homeland

The Iraqi government is pleading with Christians who have fled the atrocities of the Islamic State to return to their homeland, especially those who hail from areas already free from the clutches of the jihadists.

(REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani)Iraqi Christians pray during a mass on Christmas at St. Joseph Chaldean church in Baghdad, Iraq December 25, 2016.

During a visit to an Armenian church in Basra at the beginning of 2017, Khalaf Abdul al Samad, the president of the provincial Council in the said city, called on Christians who fled ISIS to come back and rebuild their lives in their hometowns. He also promised continuous support for the churches' activities for recovery, Agenzia Fides relays.

Basra was once home to a Christian community that was an important part of the city's merchant class. There used to be around 2,500 Christian families before the Iraq-Iran war, but now, there are only a few hundred left.

The continuing exodus of Iraqi Christians to Europe could endanger the existence of Christianity in the country they left behind. Activists have expressed alarm at the high rate of migration, especially among the young people, Rudaw reports.

"Migration is a human right to ensure stability and security in the life of an individual, but the mass migration of Christians from Iraq will inevitably have an unpleasant impact on the future of the Christians in Iraq and Kurdistan Region," said Diya Butros, the head of the Human Rights Commission in the Kurdistan Region.

The office of the Human Rights Commission in the Kurdistan Region has released reports saying the number of Christians in Baghdad has plunged to 90,000 in the last 10 years. In Kirkuk, ISIS' acts of terrorism have pushed around 6,000 families to migrate to Europe in the last couple of years.

The migration policies of European countries is not helping the situation, said Butros. According to him, these policies encourage Christians to leave their homeland instead of returning or staying. If these countries really want to help, they should instead provide support for Christians in the Kurdistan Region, he added.

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