Statement of the Heads of the Christian Churches in the Kurdistan Region on the Referendum Crisis

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In the aftermath of the last regime change, the Iraqi Christians have been exposed to a continued series of painful attacks. These began with the attacks by Al-Qaida, through those of the Islamic party militias, to gangs belonging to organized crime, and ending with the gangs of ISIS, which forcefully displaced our people from Mosul and the Plain of Nineveh. During this time the successive governments that came to power after 2003 failed to defend and safeguard the Christian component of the Iraqi citizens, and failed to protect their legal rights. This has led to the emigration of many Iraqi Christians. At present, our future does not appear to hold any good for us, nor does it indicate a continuation of Christian existence in this part of the world where Christianity has existed since the first century AD.

Amidst these attacks and the prevailing situation, wherein one crises breeds another, the Christians along with other components of the Iraqi people are the ones who pay the price of religious, sectarian, and political struggles that have weighed heavily on them: killing them, setting them astray, taking their lives and possessions, and bombing and setting on fire their churches and lands.

It is possible to say without any doubt that it is the Christians who continue to be the biggest losers in all of these fights, to which they have never been party and which, if continued, would render our people more intent on emigration, leading to their being wiped out from the surface of this land.

Undoubtedly, we Christians can never forget how our brothers in Kurdistan Region, as a people and government, received us and supported our displaced persons, not only Christians but also other components of the Iraqi people. The Kurdistan Region was a safe haven for us during the successive plights that have befallen us since 2003. As such, we are very concerned that this region now remains safe for those who live in it.

We appeal to the conscience of humanity, the international community, the UN and the major powers to intervene and bear their moral and human responsibility to safeguard our people and help them stay and survive on their ancestral land through the following efforts:

  1. The creation of conditions for dialogue based on mutual respect between the Iraqi Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government on the disputed issues, and a move away from the language of threats and the use of media for escalating the crisis. In this there must be an aim to reach a suitable solution apart from spreading the feelings of hatred that fuel conflicts. It is a clear fact that this situation has created in Christians a state of fear and concern about the possibility that the struggle may develop into a crisis that will have far reaching repercussions for all.

  2. Keeping Christians safe from the internal struggles among the larger components of the Iraqi people. We cannot hide our concern that the situation for the Christians has become very difficult and leads to uncertainty. Amidst the absence of any genuine political plans for them, the Christians are unable to see the path that would help them stay and survive on their ancestral land in dignity. Our people are tired of more injury, disappointment and frustration. Our communities are unable to withstand further the emigration of those of our people who still remain.

  3. Restoration of life to the Christian towns and their reconstruction, and the development of projects that would provide job opportunities for their children so that their existence may continue in the area. While both the federal government and the KRG are engaged in struggle over the disputed area, including the historical areas of our people, the areas liberated from the control of the criminal ISIS gangs are in an appalling condition in terms of reconstruction, public services, and security. There are no serious attempts at reconstructing the area at all by the governments. This makes it difficult for the IDPs to return, thereby prolonging their plight.

  4. Termination of all acts of demographic change in the Christian historical areas that would bring about change to its Christian identity. Care should be taken not use vulnerable Christians and arm them to serve agendas that do not serve the genuine interests of our Christian people. We demand that the use of arms be restricted to the official government security forces, which we encourage our young men to join.

  5. The future Plain of Nineveh should be maintained as a unified territory; it is critical to not divide it into parts. Care should be made not to involve the last remaining Christian land in political bargaining, as our vulnerable community cannot withstand further schism and division in addition to the ongoing political and sectarian fights. The Plain of Nineveh is a great symbol for Christians in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the world.

 Amidst the crisis that the country experiences today following the referendum of Kurdistan Region, we call upon all parties involved to opt for dialogue and moderation and to stop the escalation of the conflict through the media. We call upon them all to make efforts to contain the internal crises between the conflicting politicians through serious dialogue based on the recognition of the other and respecting their rights. Efforts should also be made to overcome all the challenges in a way that makes all as equal partners in preparing secure living conditions, especially when everybody is weary of the ongoing crises and their ramifications, especially the Christians who must not be used any further as fuel for more wars and crises.

We stress that there is no other means to solve the problems of the country other than to seriously and genuinely sit at the table of negotiation for dialogue so that everyone may have their rights. We do not encourage the internationalization of these conflicts and the intervention of others, as the latter will only further complicate things and make the people of Iraq, with all of its ethnic and religious components, destined to further endless conflicts.

We pray to God to lead all to the right path, the path of peace, justice, charity and dignity.

Heads of the Christian Churches in the Kurdistan Region
Archbishop Bashar Warda
Archbishop Neqodemous Dawoud Sharif 
Archbishop Apris Jounsen 
Bishop Rabban Al Qas
Archbishop Mousa Al Shamane

Sunday, 1 October 2017