One of the most important and awaited stages of Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq This will be the Nineveh plain in the northern part of the country around the city of Mosul. According to tradition, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world is located on the plains, which was attacked and fled in 2014 after Islamic State captured the area. Across Iraq, Christians have been a minority who have suffered discrimination and persecution for decades, but in recent years attempts to protect their communities have complicated the situation on the ground, and reconciliation between other factors, such as ethnic and religious hatred and demographics, is particularly difficult.
The New York Times He explained Take, for example, the town of Bartella, the ancient Christian settlement of the Nineveh plain, with only 3,000 of the remaining 18,000 Christians. In Bartella, the central government gave extensive powers to local church authorities to try to protect the Christian identity of the city. However, this caused many problems because Bartella, the home of another indiscriminate minority, was persecuted during the Islamic State invasion of Shabak, a Christian sect with its own language, as well as Christians. The privileges granted by the government to Christians have greatly strained relations because the Shabbats now claim to be victims of double standards.
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The Christian presence in the town of Bartella is centuries old: some churches were built 800 years ago, and the Christian presence has been permanent for at least a millennium. Although slightly different from the Shia orthodoxy, Bartella is one of the historical sites of the Shabak ethnic group, which is officially Shia Muslim. During the Islamic State invasion, it was Sunni and very conservative, persecuting Shabak and fleeing like Christians. However, Shabak, who had gathered in an armed militia, liberated the town from the militant group a few years later.
In Bartella, this explains in part the reason why most Christians do not return after liberation. Like He wrote l ‘EconomistIn other areas liberated by Christian militias, such as the protection units in the Nineveh plain, many Christians returned to settle in their old homes.
However, in Bartella, the majority of today’s population is Shabak. For this reason, the Central Government has given a special status to the local church: the power to decide on the building development of the city. In practice, church authorities in Bartella can give clear opinions about the construction of new houses and new buildings and the allocation and sale of land for new real estate projects. The same authority has been given to the authorities of the Kharakosh Church in another city, where the Pope will visit on Sunday.
In Bartella the Shabbat authorities allege that this power is being used to discriminate against them. One of the most notable examples is the veto granted last November for the construction of a large shopping center on the outskirts of the city, which includes the construction of sports centers and new homes. He said the church had blocked the project New York Times Benham Lalo, a Catholic priest from Bertella. People from other parts of the world, from Mosul and Baghdad, would buy these houses. This would have paved the way for demographic change.
The demographic problem is a major problem because Shabak is practicing polygamy and is very prosperous unlike Christians. Ali Iskander, the city’s real mayor, has three wives and 16 children. Many Shabak adult men claim to have children between the ages of 15 and 20. Christian couples usually have one or two children. Iskander claims that the church does not allow him to buy land to build a house for his family. He also accused church officials of preventing some Shabbat women from giving birth in a hospital in the city to prevent Bartella’s granting citizenship to newborns.
He accused Christians of threatening their culture: “The main problem is the Shabak officials, who want to change Bartella’s identity,” he said. New York Times Yakub Saadi, Orthodox Priest.
Bartella’s situation where two minorities live together in the same area is strange in many ways, but it exemplifies the difficulties of co – operation and reconciliation in an area where the short-lived victory of the Islamic State has upset all balances.
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In Iraq, Christians discriminate: 1.3 to 1.5 million Christians lived in the country before the US invasion in 2003: after the bloody stages of the war and the subsequent Islamic State persecution, it remains to be seen Less than 250 thousand, Many of them consider themselves in danger and wonder if tens of thousands of other Christians have recently emigrated.
For Christians in Iraq This is more difficult Finding work in the state government does not prohibit marriages between Christians and Muslims, but ignores and automatically classifies children born into mixed marriages as Muslims. In the capital, Baghdad, Christian shops are often the target of attacks and vandalism.
The government has made some efforts to include the Christian community, for example last year when Christmas was declared a national holiday. Another example is the powers given to Bertella by church authorities. However, none of these measures are sufficient to initiate effective conciliation policies.
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