ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In separate statements congratulating the people of Kurdistan and abroad celebrating Christmas, senior Kurdish leaders highlighted religious tolerance and coexistence in the Kurdistan Region, which has been a safe haven for minorities in a part of the world marred by conflict.
In a statement on the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) website, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani extended his well wishes to Christians celebrating the auspicious holiday in the Kurdistan Region and abroad.
The KRG prime minister said he hopes this year’s celebrations “will be a source of good and pleasure for all humanity.”
He also reaffirmed “the long-standing culture of coexistence, tolerance, and peace between the different religions and nationalities in Kurdistan,” stressing the KRG’s determination “to protect this culture, which is an important, prominent, and rich part of Kurdistan.”
Christians in Iraq for decades have suffered from prosecution because of their faith. In 2014, when the so-called Islamic State (IS) emerged in northern and central Iraq, tens of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes, with many seeking refuge in the Kurdistan Region.
In his statement, PM Barzani reminded that “many of our Christian brothers and sisters live in exile and have not been able to return to their homes.”
“We hope that during the coming holidays, they will return to their areas,” he added, with safety and stability as the top concern for most.
Wishing the Christians of the Kurdistan Region, Iraq and the rest of the world a Merry Christmas. May the coming year bring more peace and joy to the world.— Masoud Barzani (@masoud_barzani) December 24, 2018
In another statement, former Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani said he hopes these celebrations “are the beginning of peace and brotherhood among all components in the region, and the end of terror and oppression.”
“The Kurdistan Region is a land of coexistence and tolerance for all religions and beliefs and will always remain such a place,” Masoud affirmed.
As Christian families come together to celebrate the values Jesus taught and lived, we honor those who put their lives on the line to defend Kurdistan. Our co-existence brings together peoples of all faiths and backgrounds to share a common future- mb. 1/3— Masrour Barzani (@masrour_barzani) December 24, 2018
Elsewhere, the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC), Masrour Barzani, took the opportunity to “honor those who put their lives on the line to defend Kurdistan” among Kurdistan’s Christian population.
“Our co-existence brings peoples of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds to share a common future,” Masrour stated.
He noted that the people of Kurdistan “have welcomed into their homes the poor and the hungry, the persecuted and the displaced in a way that makes us truly special in a divided region” for generations.
“Merry Christmas to Christians celebrating in Kurdistan, Iraq and across the world,” Masrour concluded. “I wish you all peace and joy in the many years to come.”
Editing by Nadia Riva