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Iraqi Christians 'disappearing,' but Kurdistan opens borders

Catholic World News - July 09, 2014

Christians in Iraq are “in the process of disappearing,” warns a Chaldean Catholic prelate, “just as the Christians in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and North Africa have disappeared.” But another Iraqi prelate reports that the government of semi-autonomous Kurdistan has welcomed Christian refugees

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk observed that the Christian population of Iraq, which was roughly 1% of the country’s entire population in 2003, is now at most 1%, and still dwindling. The exodus of Christians has been accelerated by the rise of the Islamic state, he said.

But Chaldean Bishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, told ACN that the Kurdish government has “opened to borders to Christians,” even while Muslim refugees face restrictions. The bishop explains that Christians are more welcome because the government anticipates that they will remain in Kurdistan, rather than returning home when the current round of fighting ends.

Bishop Warda said that Christians could have a secure future in Kurdistan, although he said that the recent influx has strained the region’s resources. He said that his diocese is currently providing support for about 400 Christian families who have fled from the region of Mosul.

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