Persecution of Christians to be documented by Iraqi government

Christian persecution in Iraq is being officially documented for the first time under orders of the country's government. Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi has authorised the establishment of a committee that will work to end the ongoing abuses against Christians that have escalated since the rise of Islamic State. A committee of the security forces has been set up with the aim to collect information and provide practical measures regarding the violence and abuse suffered by Christians in Iraq and in particular in the capital. In July, the leaders of the Chaldean Patriarchate denounced the worsening security situation in a statement sent to Asia News. "This outrageous behaviour causes anguish and destroys the national mosaic of Iraqi society, weakening the prestige and authority of the state", the statement said. Chaldean Patriarchate stated that “Christians are indigenous citizens, and everyone praises their morality, their patriotism, and their roots in this country.” “For hundreds and hundreds of years they have contributed to its civilization and culture", they added. A Christian member of Iraq's parliament, Imad Youkhana, issued a statement on July 9 calling for greater protections for the country's Christian population. He branded the kidnappings parts of an intimidation campaign bent on forcing Iraqi Christians out of the country, and warned that it was threatening Iraq's unity.

COMMITTEE TO MONITOR CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION According to Iraqi Agenzia Fides, thee committee was set up on the orders of Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi, and aims to counter in particular the escalation of kidnappings and illegal expropriation of homes and land which in recent months Iraqi Christians have suffered. The heads of the Committee have already visited the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad and spoke with Patriarch Louis Raphael I in order to start collecting data and information about the abuses suffered by Christians. In particular, the first step is to carry out a census of the real estate abusively taken from Christian families, collecting the title deeds and indicating the individual, groups and corporate bodies that now benefit of illegally expropriated properties. The Christian communities will be able to also provide information to the security committee regarding the cases of kidnapped Christians including clues to identify the perpetrators of kidnappings. ESCALATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS In recent months, both in Baghdad and in other Iraqi cities, the cases of housing and land illegally taken from their respective Christian owners, through false legal documents, have multiplied. The phenomenon has been able to take hold thanks to collusion and coverings of corrupt and dishonest officials. In Baghdad alone, between late June and early July, four Iraqi Christians had been kidnapped, and two of them were found dead by the police, despite the ransom paid by their families to the kidnappers. NGO Baghdad Beituna [Baghdad Our Home] estimates that there have been more than 7,000 violations against properties belonging to Iraqi Christians in the city since 2003. In 2003, there were around 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq. There are now thought to be less than 200,000.