Leaders of Catholic churches in Iraq have flown to Europe to report on the Iraqi crisis, to try to find solutions for the country’s rapidly declining number of Christians. Their visit came amid reports that two nuns in Mosul, accompanied by two women and a boy, have been unaccounted for since Jun. 28.
They are believed to have been kidnapped by militants of the radical jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. More recently, the group has taken to calling itself the Islamic State, or IS.
On July 9, the Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Raphael Sako of Baghdad, Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul, and Bishop Youssif Mirkis of Kirkuk in Kurdish-controlled Iraq, held meetings in Brussels with high-level representatives of EU institutions and NATO. They discussed the situation and prospects for Christians in Iraq since the invasion of Mosul by IS last month and of the Ninevah Plains to the north, where there has been a high concentration of Christians. Many of the Christians had earlier fled Baghdad and other southern cities for the relative safety of the north. The Brussels meetings were organized by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
The IS invasion has triggered a flood of Christians from the south of Iraq into the Kurdish-governed north-east, as well as neighboring countries. Christian leaders are concerned that the 2,000-year presence of Christianity in Iraq will become merely symbolic as the community flees the jihadist militants who continue to bring disorder and instability in Iraq.
A decade ago, around 2003, Iraq was home to 1.5 million Christians. After years of war and sectarian violence only about 400,000 are said to remain, and that number is now dropping rapidly.
“The next days will be very bad. If the situation does not change, Christians will be left with just a symbolic presence in Iraq,” Reuters quoted Sako as saying during the Brussels meetings. “If they leave, their history is finished.”
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