Iraq | 16 April 2019

Iraq: Threat of church attacks in wake of New Zealand mosque shootings

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According to the news platform Kurdistan 24 reporting on 19 and 25 March 2019, the Iraqi government has requested Baghad"s security forces to be extra vigilant for possible attacks on churches after a 44 minute recording was published by the Islamic State group (IS) calling on Muslims to carry out attacks in all countries that took part in fighting IS in revenge for the mass shootings at mosques in New Zealand on 15 March 2019. This recording was published just days ahead of IS"s complete territorial collapse in Syria, as‚ announced on 23 March (BBC News, 23 March 2019) by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Henriette Kats, persecution analyst at World Watch Research, comments: "It is a positive development that the Iraqi government is taking this threat to churches seriously. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior explicitly mentioned the Saidat al-Najat Church in Baghdad in its warning which had been attacked in 2010, causing the death of 40 Christians. Hopefully the security forces are able to prepare well and offer sufficient protection to Iraqi churches. It is precisely a lack of safety that is making so many Christians flee the country." Henriette Kats continues: "Another positive development this year was the opening of the first Armenian church in Erbil, as reported by the Panarmenian news network on 7 April 2019, which was built by the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). These developments both show that the KRG and Iraqi government are trying to support and protect the local Christian population. It is to be hoped that this will lead to the continued presence of Christians, a presence which goes back almost 2000 years."


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