For Iraq’s Christians, this year might be their last

Dec 26, 2019 by

By Reine Hanna, UnHerd:

Sixteen years after the disastrous invasion, and two years after ISIS were defeated, the community faces its end.

The British Government’s Christmas message of solidarity with persecuted Christians is a welcome gesture, but for many communities around the world time is quickly running out.

There is no country where this is more acute or tragic than Iraq, home to one of the oldest Christian communities on earth but which has, since the fall of Saddam Hussein, undergone its own Calvary.

Three years ago, I spent Christmas in snowy village of Sarsing in the north of the country. The Christians here are Assyrian, a distinct ethnic group who speak Aramaic, the language of Christ, and who trace their conversion back to the very earliest days of the faith. The town lies on a cliff, close to one of the highest points of Iraq, and is a reminder of their tragic past, founded a century ago by survivors of the Assyrian Genocide (1914-1923).

The Assyrians survived to become part of the new Iraq but they may not endure much longer. Sarsing’s co-mayor, Isaac Yaqo, keeps a record of every single Assyrian who leaves the town, in a small, weathered black book where he writes their names, their ages, and the dates they fled the country. Yaqo calls it his “blacklist”, and is unforgiving of those who he feels have abandoned the town, because, he says: “Leaving means you’re giving up on our cause”.

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