People are looking forward to returning home in Iraq, but religious leaders caution that steps still need to be taken to protect the religious freedom of Christians.
Religious leaders have been vocalizing the threat ISIS poses to the survival of Christianity in the Middle East since ISIS rose to power, but even now that many places are being liberated from ISIS control, religious leaders say Christianity may still be eradicated.
According to ChristianToday.com, thousands of Christians were driven from their homes when ISIS took over and became refugees in Erbil, under the protection of the Catholic Church. Most cities in Iraq have now been freed from ISIS control, except for Mosul, ISIS’ last stronghold where a battle is still ongoing.
“As these areas are retaken, we must not forget these Christians, whose lands and homes were stolen, and who have been living as refugees ever since. The military action will not end the nightmare they have been living for two years. They need continued support, and a commitment to rebuild,” said Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil.
“While welcoming the ongoing liberation of the Nineveh plain and Mosul, we must not forget that the genocide begun by ISIS will continue through attrition and neglect unless the United States and international community prioritizes those groups that were targeted for extermination and risk disappearing altogether,” added Carl Anderson of the Catholic organization the Knights of Columbus.
Just last week, the Iraqi parliament banned the consumption and sale of alcohol–something which is forbidden for Muslims, and thus seemed to be targeting Christians who are its primary consumers and retailers.
Such an action revealed to many Christians in the region that the government still may not be willing to protect them, despite what they have suffered.