Iraqi Kurdistan, December 2012

The fall of the dictator Saddam Hussein and the subsequent conflict had an unexpected result in Iraq: “All the borders remained open”, explained the Catholic Archbishop Bashar Matte Warda. Islamic militants from all over the world arrived to fight the Western forces and those they saw as the enemy, Christians. In 2004, when Archbishop Matte Warda was in office, a car bomb attack on the St. Elijah church in Baghdad marked the start of a war against the Christians that has forced the community to flee.

Their number has fallen from 1,400,000 in 2003 to 500,000 today. Some of them, including monk Yousif from the thousand year old Mar Mattai monastery, have taken refuge in the north of Iraq in the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan. There, the local government has succeeded in protecting them. However, many still continue to feel threatened. They have few opportunities and they are forced to live in poverty.