Friday, November 19, 2010

Iraqi Kurdistan Offers Christians in Central Iraq Assylum

President Barzani of Kurdistan, one of the federal regions in US-occupied Iraq, has invited the Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Assyrians suffering persecution in the rest of the country to relocate to Kurdistan. Northeastern Mesopotamia, modern day Iraqi Kurdistan and far southeastern Turkey, was previously the center of the region's Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian Christian, and Chaldean Catholic populations, with the patriarchs of the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church living in the region until the early twentieth century when the Kurds, with Turkish support, undertook the Assyrian and Armenian Genocides and either massacred most of the area's Christians or drove them south into present day central Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Baghdad has been the site of most of the recent anti-Christian violence, but Mosul, the main city in Iraqi Kurdistan, has been the site of several kidnappings and murders of Assyrians and Chaldean Catholics. The seriousness of the Kurdistani government's offer, how Iraq's Christians will respond, and whether the life of Kurdistan's existing Christian minorities will improve remains to be seen. CNN's story on President Barzani's offer can be found here.

Pictured is Dayro d'Mar Mattai, one of the oldest surviving monasteries in Mesopotamia near ancient Nineveh and modern-day Mosul, Iraq. For many centuries it was the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Church's Maphrians of the East, among them St. Gregory of Ebroyo, whose relics remain there to this day.

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