Iraqi Christians plead for greater protection following Baghdad killings

The recent kidnap and murder of Christians in Baghdad has prompted the Chaldean Church to issue a demand for greater protection.

In a statement sent to Asia News, the leaders of the Chaldean Patriarchate denounce the worsening security situation in Iraq, particularly the "kidnapping of innocent people in order to gain sums of money and to terrorize civilians."

In just two weeks, four Christians have been abducted in Baghdad and two of them killed, despite their families having paid a ransom. It is unclear who is responsible.

The Church leaders also highlight the illegal seizure of Christian homes and belongings, and believers being threatened unless they leave their jobs. According to the NGO Baghdad Beituna [Baghdad Our Home], there have been more than 7,000 violations against properties belonging to Iraqi Christians in the city since 2003. 

"This outrageous behaviour causes anguish and destroys the national mosaic of Iraqi society, weakening the prestige and authority of the state," the statement says.

"Christians are indigenous citizens, and everyone praises their morality, their patriotism, and their roots in this country. For hundreds and hundreds of years they have contributed to its civilization and culture."

Iraq is deeply entrenched in Christian history, and there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians living in the country in 2003. There are now thought to be less than 200,000, with swathes having fled during the uprising of Islamic State.

Many Christian leaders have called for followers to stay in Iraq, however. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad warned last year of the severity of the situation. "We are losing our community. If Christian life in Iraq comes to an end, this will be a hiatus in our history," he said.

The five Christian patriarchs of the Church of Antioch in June of this year then also urged believers to stay in the Middle East. "We do not condemn those that choose to leave, but we remind Christians that steadfastness in faith often entails a great deal of tribulation," they said in a joint statement.

The leaders called on "everyone who claims to have an interest in our fate to help us to remain", describing themselves as "deeply rooted in its [the Middle East's] earth that was watered by the sweat of our fathers and grandfathers, and we confirm more than ever that we are staying."

The emigration of Christians is "a great loss" to Iraq, the Chaldean Patriarchate's latest statement said.

"We call upon the governmental authorities and the security forces in Baghdad to protect the lives and the property of our people, and to issue a decision to ban the sale of Christian homes, except by a recommendation of the Church.

"We also call upon the aggressors to remember that such forbidden behavior cannot continue."