As the Nation Prepares for the Pope’s Visit Iraqi Christians Reflect on Years of Strife, Persecution

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Currents News Staff

In a stadium in Erbil, Iraq, rehearsals are underway for Pope Francis’ upcoming visit.

Christianity’s roots run deep there, but the population is dwindling.

As ISIS mortar killed four-year-old David Shmas in 2014 outside his home in Qaraqosh.

His mother, Dhoha, sees no point in staying.

“If someone will take us away, I’ll be the first one to emigrate,” she told Currents News.

Over the last century, revolutions, chaos, oppression and intolerance have driven many Christians abroad.

In the last 20 years however, it’s gone from bad to worse, culminating in ISIS’s reign of terror.

The group gave Christians a choice: pay a tax on non-Muslims, convert, flee or die.

Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil Bashar Warda says the Muslim majority in the Middle East remains indifferent to the plight of minorities, and says Iraq’s diversity is fast disappearing.

“What frightens me is that during this period no one has asked what we, for example, have lost, when we have a declining number of the Mandaeans, and now Yezidis, Christians,” he explained.

Twenty-one years ago, Sabah Zaitoun moved to Sweden, but is back in Erbil for a visit. Those who have left, he says, have left for good.

“I don’t think anyone will return from Europe,” Sabah said. “That would be difficult.” 

This will be the first time a pope has stepped foot in this land where Christians and so many others have suffered so much, for so long. Their voices, they hope, finally being heard.