AKRE (Kurdistan 24) – Nuhava is a village near the Kurdistan Region’s city of Akre, where both Muslim and Christians have coexisted in peace and harmony for centuries.
The relationship between the followers of the two different faiths is known to many as the shining example of pluralism in the Kurdistan Region, with bonds so strong the residents go out of their way to help each other, especially during their respective religious events.
On Monday, Issa Toma, a Christian villager, went out to help his Muslim neighbor tend to his farm as the man is fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“I am a Christian, and my Muslim neighbor is fasting. I came to help him to make him feel comfortable with his fasting,” Toma told Kurdistan 24.
For some two hundred years, Christians and Muslims have lived together in peace in this village, according to Toma.
Yousuf Yelda is another elderly Christian man. He noted the residents always respect each other’s religions and extend a helping hand.
“During Ramadan, we as Christians don’t drink or eat in front of them while they are fasting. We also avoid smoking. That’s for Ramadan in particular. For other normal days, we are always there to go help each other if there is any work,” Yelda told Kurdistan 24.
The village is home to both mosques and churches, with worshippers of both religions congratulating each other during religious occasions, events, and feasts, according to the villagers.
“Thank God, we have no problems. The integration is so strong that it is hard for people from the outside to distinguish between Muslims and Christians, unless we tell them,” Ayoub Rashid, a local Muslim cleric, told Kurdistan 24.
“They (Christians) respect us so much during Ramadan. If in this holy month, we have some work to do, such as farming or manual labor, they voluntary come to help us,” Rashid affirmed, praising the coexistence and mutual respect they enjoy in Nuhava.
The Kurdistan Region is home to roughly 100,000 Christians, spread across different provinces, with the majority living in Erbil and Duhok. Following the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq in 2014, most of Iraq’s remaining Christians were displaced to areas administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), while others fled abroad.
The autonomous region has a unicameral parliamentary legislature with 111 seats, with five quota seats each reserved for Turkmen and Christian parties and one seat specifically set aside for a member of an Armenian party.
They also have their representative and Directorate-General of Christian Affairs in the KRG’s Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs.
The culture of peaceful coexistence and social harmony has its historical roots in the Kurdish region. Indeed, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, and others have proudly stated that Christians are one of the indigenous people of the area, a melting pot of religious and ethnic minorities.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Ari Hussein)