ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A special ceremony marked the reopening of a church on Wednesday in the Kurdistan Region’s city of Soran after it was renovated by the Hungarian government.
The occasion, at the Mar Georgis Church, was attended by the acting minister of the KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs Pshtiwan Sadiq and many local Christian residents.
The house of worship was originally built in 1980 and is located some 70 kilometers northeast of the regional capital of Erbil.
The Kurdistan Region is home to roughly 100,000 Christians, distributed throughout the different provinces but 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.
On April 6, the KRG opened the first Armenian Orthodox church in Erbil’s district of Ankawa, an area known for having a predominantly Christian population.
“The opening of this church itself is laying another foundation stone for peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups in the Kurdistan Region,” Safeen Dizayee, the spokesperson of the KRG told Kurdistan 24.
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.
In March 2018, Christian leaders gathered to praise the Hungarian government for opening a new school for displaced children as well as for its continued support of the Kurdistan Region in general. Hungary's grant of US $700,000 to the project, meant for children displaced by the war with the Islamic State, was matched with the same amount being donated by the Archdiocese of Erbil.
"Kurdistan is a place of peace, a pace of security, a place of education," he added. "A future, also, for all the people of Iraq. It's not only the Christians that have been displaced."
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Tayfur Mohammed)