The Assyrian Church of the East recently opened its new Patriarchate in Erbil, the capital city of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The inauguration ceremony was attended by area officials, including governmental officials, community leaders, local religious leaders and those with diplomatic ties.
“It was then where the foundation for co-existence and brotherhood was laid out, and there is nothing more beautiful than a country where everyone lives as brothers,” local political leader Masoud Barzani said during a speech at the inauguration ceremony.
“The Assyrian Church of the East today opened its new Patriarchate in Erbil. It’s a move decades in the making. The patriarchal seat left Iraq in 1933, but always with an eye on returning. Construction of a new facility in Erbil was announced in 2006,” Joe Snell, an Assyrian and the Middle East reporter with Al-Monitor, wrote on Twitter.
Regarding the significance of opening this Patriarchate in Erbil, Joseph Slewah, a former Iraqi lawmaker from Nineveh who led the Warka bloc, told a news agency that opening churches in Iraq is not enough in ending the mayhem against Christians in the war-torn country.
“The Christian people in Iraq, including the Assyrians, are prosecuted across the country, including in the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The stones in the churches have no value if the Christian people are being prosecuted, feel they are second-degree citizens, evacuated from their lands and their political will denied across the country,” Slewah said.
“There are less than half a million Christians left in all of Iraq, out of six million in 2003. In Baghdad, there were more than 750,000. Today, there are no more than 75,000,” explains William Warda, President of the Hammurabi organization for the protection of religious minorities, in an interview with the news organization The New Arab in 2020.
Any and all positive developments for Christians in the Nineveh Plain are encouraging. American FRRME’s mission is to rebuild safe communities for Christians living in and returning to Iraq. American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (American FRRME) is a U.S.-based Christian charity that aims to bring hope, help and healing in the Middle East, assisting Iraqi Christian refugees and other religious minorities.American FRRME works to support the ongoing needs of Iraqis – primarily Christian Iraqis – who fled Iraq and Kurdistan during the ISIS insurgency in 2014. The organization supports those displaced within Iraq many of whom remain living in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps in Baghdad and northern Iraq, as well as supporting those who fled to neighboring Jordan.