Iraqi Kurdistan Religion

Iraqi Kurdistan Welcomes Christians Fleeing ISIS

Pope Francis and Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani

At a press conference held earlier this week, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani welcomed Christians into Kurdistan, calling them “hosts,” referring to the long history of Christianity in Kurdistan. Speaking to the press after meeting a Christian Kurdish political party, Prime Minister Barzani said, “Christians and Muslims have always lived together in the region. Christians are the hosts here; they aren’t strangers.”

A Long History of Christianity

These days, many Christians in Kurdistan are fleeing the self-proclaimed Islamic State, but it wasn’t always so. Dating back thousands of years, Christianity came to the Kurdish region long before Islam. When Prime Minister Barzani called the Christians of Kurdistan, “hosts,” he was referring to the fact that many Kurds were Christians before they converted to Islam.

Several important Christian towns and landmarks still exist in Iraqi Kurdistan, one of which — the Mar Matti monastery — was saved by Peshmerga fighters last summer.

Saving Ancient Christian Texts in Kurdistan

When ISIS threatened the Iraqi countryside last summer, a group of Syriac Orthodox Christians of Mar Matti moved to rescue a library of around 80 ancient Christian texts. Located near Mosul, the Mar Matti monastery dates back to the 4th century, and was saved from the Islamic State’s advance by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

This relationship between Islamic Kurds and regional Christians is a bright spot of religious tolerance among a dark cloud of oppression that is the Islamic State.

[Read more at Anadolu Agency]

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