ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Syriac Orthodox Church delegation that arrived in Erbil on Friday continued its visit on Sunday and met with Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC), Masrour Barzani.
Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Antioch and East led the delegation, which included several bishops.
They “exchanged views on the situation in the Nineveh Plains and ways to promote the return of Christians and other religious groups to their ancestral homes,” a KRSC statement read.
Barzani “reaffirmed the commitment of the Kurdistan Region to Christian calls to manage their own affairs, including local security,” the statement added.
Of the estimated 5.9 million residents in the Kurdistan Region, roughly two percent adhere to the Christian faith.
Members of the minority group have long suffered persecution in Iraq. In 2014, when the Islamic State emerged in northern, western, and central Iraq, tens of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes, with many seeking refuge in the Kurdistan Region.
“His Holiness [Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II] expressed his personal appreciation for the aid given to Christian communities fleeing violence and persecution in recent years,” the KRSC statement said.
The Patriarch also “commended KRG’s efforts to strengthen co-existence through educational reforms and combating extremist ideology.”
The delegation arrived in Erbil on Friday and first met with Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani. The following day, they met with Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
During the earlier meetings, the PM and KDP leader discussed with the delegation the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups in the autonomous Kurdistan Region and called on members of the Christian community to remain in the region.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany