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17th October 2012
Christians in Iraq
Christians in Iraq are essential to the future development of the Iraqi state. Saddam Hussein banned Christians from working in the bureaucracy. As a result, Christian university graduates often trained as lawyers, doctors, and engineers. As Iraq progresses in its development, the state needs doctors to care for the sick and injured, engineers to rebuild and advance Iraqi industry and infrastructure, and lawyers to write and enact the laws of a new democracy, as well as to ensure the rule law in Iraqi society. Sadly, the Christian population, well educated in these vital, and traditionally middle class fields, has been scattered internally in Iraq and abroad. Many of the dispersed are afraid to return.
Despite Christianity’s 2,000 year history in Iraq, some estimates warn that in 20 years’ time, Iraq may have no Christians living in its borders at all. In November 2009 a Human Rights Watch report said that nearly two thirds of Iraq’s Christians have fled their homes to avoid persecution and violence. Many fled to Europe and the United States, and many to Iraq’s neighbouring countries such as Syria. Still, a large population of Iraqi Christians relocated in a specifically Christian part of the generally Kurdish north, the Nineveh Plain.
In an article from the BBC released a year ago, Iraqi Christian leaders reported that the Christian population was stabilizing and beginning to cope with the new circumstances in Iraq. Priest Eugene Hirmiz said, ‘We have overcome the state of fear and we are now coping with this situation.’ Another Christian leader, Al-Rafidayn Bloc Chairman Yonadam Kanna said that, ‘the number of people who headed to the churches was twice the number of worshippers over the past years,’ and that, ‘people celebrated Christmas in a free, secure, and peaceful environment across Iraq.’ Still, despite improvements, the Christian population faces an uphill battle. According to Priest Yusuf Tuma, ‘the determination to stay in this country needs a great amount of courage,’ because of targeted criminal and terrorist activities and historical discrimination of Christians in government. Luckily, even with persistent set-backs, the Christian condition in Iraq appears to be improving, though sadly without the return of émigrés.
 Alice Fordham (contributor) ‘In the Iraq war, Christians pushed to the brink,’ from Christian Science Monitor, 15 Nov. 2009, accessed via Nexis UK on 14 October 2012.
 ‘Securing Iraq Christians requires social justice, state’s intervention – clerics,’ from BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political, 30 Dec. 2011, accessed via Nexis UK on 14 October 2012.
 All quotes from Ibid. For Christian hardship, see Steven Lee Myers, ‘More Christians are fleeing Iraq in New violence’, from The New York Times, 13 Dece 2010, accessed via Nexis UK, 14 Oct. 2012.