Iraq’s Christians ‘face extinction’

A Member of the European Parliament with responsibility for monitoring Iraq has warned that the Christian community there now faces extinction.

Following a fact-finding mission to Iraq at the end of November, Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson, chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq issued a statement in which he was heavily critical of the administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in failing to deal with militant targeting of the Christian community and turning “a blind-eye to the systematic discrimination and violence against other ethnic minority groups”.

Mr Stevenson reported on “the gradual erosion of Iraq's ancient Christian community which has now dwindled from 1.5 million to an estimated 300,000”.

“One of the oldest Christian communities in the world,” Mr Stevenson added, “which can trace its origins back to the time of Christ, now faces extinction because of virtual ethnic cleansing and constant vicious bombings, assassinations and kidnappings.”

As part of his visit, Mr Stevenson also visited the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan, to which many Christians have fled from other areas of Iraq, and found evidence that EU funds intended for refugees, including those now entering Iraq from Syria, was not reaching the region.

“The EU must stop sending such financial aid to Baghdad, where it simply disappears, but must instead give it directly to the NGOs who are actively helping the Syrian refugees in Iraq," he insisted.

“The Kurdistan Regional Government and UNHCR have done amazing work in setting up a series of emergency camps in a very short period, to provide food and shelter for these people. But with winter approaching, there is an urgent need for additional aid to provide tent linings, stoves, heaters, winter clothing and more food.”