Christians need to be recognized not only by words but on the ground as equal citizens, says patriarch
An Iraqi flag flutters across from a banner depicting Pope Francis at St. Joseph Church in central Baghdad on March 10 during a Mass held following the visit of the pontiff to the country. (Photo: AFP)
Political leaders had "very nice words" during Pope Francis' early March trip to Iraq, but now Christians pray "that those words, those declarations, will be applied on the daily level, on the ground," said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan.
"Christians need to be recognized not only by the words but on the ground as equal citizens. Until now, we have laws (in Iraq) discriminating against Christians and other minorities," he told Catholic News Service from the patriarchate in Beirut.
The Christian population in Iraq numbered around 1.5 million in 2003. With the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and, especially with the 2014 Islamic State group takeover of the Ninevah Plain in August 2014, there are now 200,000 Christians at the most, the patriarch said.
"This is the reality," he said. Syriac Catholics account for at least 25% of that number, he said.
"Christians in Iraq have been suffering for a long time, and this kind of uprooting, of exodus is very dangerous for their survival," he said.
Patriarch Younan told CNS Pope Francis "had a message of peace, of hope and joy to those who have remained in Iraq. But we should ask ourselves, how many Christian Iraqis will go back home?" he asked, in reference to the hundreds of thousands who have immigrated to other countries. "Because the situation in Iraq is still not yet well secured. Chaos still reigns."
"How will it be, the resonance of the pope's proclamation of the Gospel, in the hearts of the Muslim majority in Iraq? It's up to God, and we keep hoping and praying and will try to proclaim the truth always in charity," the patriarch said.
Unequal Christians of Asian Churches is a new series of features aimed to help us see prejudice and bias that are at work in our Church. They also help us see the struggles of Catholics to live out their faith.
Such features come to you for FREE, but it cost us to produce them.
Share your comments
In a land area of 4,656 square kilometers, the archdiocesan territory covers most of Ha Noi city, whole province of Ha
The diocesan territory stretches over a land area of 53,917 square kilometers in Thailand's northeast and covers seven
In a land area of 6,400 square kilometers, the Tuticorin diocesan territory covers the whole Tuticorin civil district
Basilica of Our Lady of Graces in Sardhana is a historic church that lives the memory of love and...
The Sacred Heart Cathedral in Yamate of Yokohama is the oldest Catholic Church built in 1862 by...
St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi is a French colonial-era landmark and one of...