Christians in Iraq
There have been Christians in Iraq since the time of the Apostles, and they preserve their traditional worship in ancient churches and monasteries. Most Iraqi Christians still speak a modern form of Aramaic (the language of Jesus).
In 2003, around 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq. Now that number has been reduced to 275,000.
Starting in June 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) and aligned forces began a major offensive in northern Iraq and captured the city of Mosul and many towns in the plains of Nineveh, causing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Christians from their historic homeland. Most of them fled to the Kurdistan region and arrived in the territory of the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil. Since that time they have lived in refugee camps.
Many of the Christians who fled from the Islamic State (ISIS) have been told that their homes were destroyed and there won’t be anywhere for Christians to return to. After two long years, the Christian villages of Bartela, Batnaya, Karamles and Qaraqosh were finally liberated in December 2016 from ISIS. They are currently not habitable.
The damage is not just physical. After the eventual liberation of Mosul and the securing of the region, reconciliation will have to take place, to remove the fear of hatred and revenge — not only in Mosul, but in the rest of the plains of Nineveh.
The transition period could last till at least 2020, in an environment of conflict, an economy in recession, high unemployment (where government employees receive 25 per cent of their salaries, including doctors), power cuts, and higher rents; all of this amidst political and religious uncertainty.
275,000 Christians currently live in Iraq