IRAQ – Christians excluded from reconstruction plans
A coalition of mainly Christian UK-based charities working in Iraq and Syria warned that leaders of religious minority communities are being excluded from the National Settlement plan for northern Iraq being put together by Iraq and other regional powers and presented to the UN. Exclusion of Christians from the reconstruction plans will further reduce the likelihood of their return once Islamic State has been militarily defeated.
The 16 NGOs produced an 88-page report, Ensuring Equality , which shows how vital it is for Christians and other minority populations to receive support for their political and security concerns. They need to be reassured of their safety before they can return to Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plains region, rebuild their communities and undertake any reconciliation process. “This must include full citizenship status and the rebuilding of churches and community centres,” says the report.
The charities who contributed to the Report include Aid to the Church in Need, the Assyrian Church of the East Relief Fund, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, Syrian Christians for Peace, the Evangelical Christian Alliance Church in Lebanon and the Alliance Church of Jordan.
Sources closer to Iraq share the UK charities’ fears. The Al-Monitor news website believes that the viability of the project for Iraqi national reconciliation, outlined in December in the “National Settlement” document, is threatened by its exclusion of the country’s minority populations, including Assyrian Christians.
Christian Iraqi MPs have also expressed concern that minorities are being ignored. Yonandam Kanna, secretary-general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, said that the Settlement did not include any clause determining the fate of disputed minority areas, control of which is sought by Arab Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region – such as the Nineveh Plains for the Christians and Shabaks.
He added: “Minorities do not have a say in this and they are not even allowed to determine their own fate. The settlement does not take into account the views of Christians or Yazidis, or any other less influential minority groups.”
Mr. Kanna has previously criticised the national reconciliation projects put forward by the larger political groups for failing to provide guarantees that people who have committed atrocities against minorities, such as Yazidis and Christians, would be brought to justice.
Another Christian Iraqi MP told a conference in Washington DC last summer that the Iraqi Parliament “does not take minorities into account”.
Last month the Russian Foreign Minister accused the European Union of “avoid[ing] the discussion on the problems of Christians in the Middle East [by] putting itself under the infamous mask of political correctness”.