Iraq (MNN) — A four-day papal tour of Iraq made history this weekend, but it leaves Christians’ problems unresolved.
On Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged Christians in Nineveh to forgive their persecutors and rebuild communities. Believers say it will take significant changes on the ground to make that happen.
Squatters or armed militia now occupy the homes left behind when Christians fled persecution.
“It’s difficult [for Christians] to get a home back because they are vulnerable. They don’t have big militia groups or other powerful forces within the country to support them, and it’s very difficult to rectify these kinds of abuses,” Middle East Concern’s Daniel Hoffman says.
“Pray for the continued presence of the Christian communities in Iraq, that they will take their place as ‘light and salt’ in the country.”
Property seizures began in 2003 when Christians started leaving Iraq in droves. More believers followed in 2014 as the Islamic State waged war on historic Christian communities, leaving homes vacant and vulnerable.
“This issue of taking over property is not solely aimed at Christians. Other communities suffer from it as well, but they often have powerful forces – militia or other backings in other countries – that can help and protect them, while the Christians do not. Therefore, they (Christians) are more vulnerable,” Hoffman explains.
Activists held little hope that the papal visit would fix this ongoing issue, AFP reports. “Of the cases I know, 20 percent were resolved. But the remaining 80 percent are still a huge problem,” said Yunan al-Farid, a Greek Orthodox priest in Baghdad who advocates on behalf of victims of squatting.
MEC speaks up for believers at the highest level. Learn more here.
“We speak with politicians, saying, ‘When you discuss the future of Iraq, please be aware that this is happening and ask the Iraqi authorities to rectify these situations to make it possible for people to reclaim their property,’” Hoffman describes as an example.
Pray believers can reclaim their homes. Ask the Lord to protect Iraqi Christians from new threats.
“The Shabak community [is trying] to force Christians out of their villages in the Nineveh Plain as well so they can take over their property,” Hoffman says. More about that here.
Header image depicts a cross atop Saint Matthew Monastery (Der Mar Matti), a Syriac Orthodox monastery overlooking the Nineveh Plains towns of Bashiqa and Bartella, in between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. (Photo, caption courtesy Levi Clancy via Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0)