ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A delegation from the Chaldean Catholic Church on Wednesday met with Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani to congratulate him on his appointment as leader of the autonomous Kurdish region.
Louis Raphaël I Sako, who is the current Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq and the world, led the delegation which included several of the church’s pastors.
In the meeting, the delegation extended its congratulations to the president and wished him success in taking up his responsibilities as the leader of the Kurdistan Region.
President Barzani and the Catholic delegation highlighted the current circumstances of Christians in general and the Chaldeans, in particular, in Iraq and Kurdistan.
Both sides emphasized “the continued coexistence of different religious and ethnic components as one of the most well-known features of Kurdistan,” a statement on the Kurdistan Region’s presidency website read.
They also stressed “the importance of coexistence and tolerance in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq and the realization and protection of the rights of all religious and national components.”
Elsewhere, at the beginning of the weekly Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Council of Ministers meeting, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani commemorated the 86th anniversary of the Semile massacre and the fifth anniversary of the genocide the so-called Islamic State committed against the Christian, Chaldean, Syriac, and Assyrian people in Iraq.
In a post on his Facebook page, Anoo Abdoka, the KRG’s Minister for Transport and Communication, thanked Prime Minister Barzani for his thoughtful tribute. “Thank you for always being a true friend of our people, dear Kak Masrour,” Abdoka wrote.
Christians are spread throughout the Kurdistan Region. Most live in Ankawa, located in Erbil province. Assyrians and Chaldean Christians have five reserved seats in the Kurdistan Region Parliament. Christians can practice their religious beliefs without hindrance.
Since the 2003 Iraq war and the 2014 Islamic State takeover of parts of Iraq, the Christian population, which once numbered 1.5 million people, dwindled drastically to less than half a million amid harsh persecution and attacks by various terror groups.
Although tens of thousands still live in various refugee camps throughout the Kurdistan Region, many others have chosen to emigrate abroad.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany