The Prime Minister of Iraq says it is now safe for Christians to return to the country, but those who fled the persecution remain unconvinced.
It is estimated that about one million Christians have left the nation in recent years. Now Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi claims it is safe for them to return.
But Behnam Benoka, an Iraqi based partner of the religious freedom charity Open Doors, says the country is still too dangerous and many Christians are economically disadvantaged.
He said, ‘How can Christians return to Iraq while many are still living in undignified conditions and facing persecution from Sunni and Shia fundamentalist groups?
‘Instead of welcoming Christians back to Iraq, the first concern should be that the remaining Christians in Iraq will not yet still leave the country as well. Because they are no longer able to resist.’
Anna Hill, spokesperson for Open Doors’ Hope for the Middle East campaign, said, ‘We asked Iraqi Christians what they would need in order to stay.
‘The things they asked for were legal equality, improved livelihood, and a central role for Christians in rebuilding society.
‘The government must work to increase job opportunities, improve infrastructure, and guarantee security for Christians not only to return but to flourish, making a recognised, positive contribution to society.’
According to the Open Doors UK website, ‘Islamic extremists remain active in Iraq, attacking and kidnapping Christians. So-called Islamic State (IS) are notorious for their appalling use of women, particularly the sexual enslavement of women from religious minorities.
‘While IS no longer have a stranglehold over the country, the legacy of their attitudes linger and many women are traumatised from their experiences.
‘The government also discriminates against Christians in various contexts, from the workplace to check points. Blasphemy laws can also be used against those who try to spread the gospel.’