Iraqi Christian Leaders Join UN Conference On ISIS Investigations
Iraqi Christian Leaders Join UN Conference On ISIS Investigations: The Iraqi Christian leaders has met with a UN delegation and foreign representatives in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region to address ongoing investigations into ISIS’ targeted genocide against Christians, which was described as “barbaric attacks, rooted in hate and inhumanity.”
The United Nations Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL, or UNITAD, organized the conference, which also included political leaders from various countries.
According to UNITAD Special Adviser Christian Ritscher, ISIS destroyed Christian cultural treasures in Mosul and the Ninawa lowlands (also known as the Nineveh plains). Churches, monasteries, graves, manuscripts, and Christian symbols were targeted in “barbaric attacks rooted in hatred and inhumanity,” according to International Christian Concern, a persecution watchdog located in the United States.
Safeen Dizayee, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Department of Foreign Relations, emphasized Kurdistan’s role as a refuge for Iraq’s Christians. “Christians are the indigenous people of this land and must continue their lives with dignity and security,” Dizayee said.
Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Coordinator for International Advocacy, said the majority of the remaining 200,000 Christians in Iraq have taken refuge in Kurdistan. Zebari recounted the history of Christian persecution in Iraq, noting that displacement due to terrorism peaked after ISIS’ attacks in 2014.
UNITAD’s conference gathered over 30 Christian community leaders and international representatives from the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Hungary, and the European Union.
Ritscher commended the resilience of the Christian community. “Your togetherness and your resilience are inspirational, not just to the Christian community in Iraq but also to us at UNITAD,” he said, according to UNITAD’s press release.
Ritscher also mentioned that individual case files for ISIS members involved in crimes against Christians are being developed. These identities are corroborated by testimonial evidence and internal ISIS documents.
U.S. Consul General Mark Stroh and French Acting Consul General Rodolphe Richard reiterated their countries’ support for UNITAD’s investigations. Both emphasized the importance of investigating crimes against the Christian community and other minorities in Iraq.
During the conference, UNITAD investigators provided updates on their progress. They discussed modern tools and methodologies used in international crime investigations.
Christian leaders at a conference in Bali, Indonesia, emphasized the importance of evidence gathering and witness accounts in documenting ISIS’ international crimes against the Christian community.
The Most Rev. Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, warned that Christianity in Iraq is “on the very edge of extinction” due to sectarian violence and the rise of an Islamic State stronghold.
The number of Christians in Iraq has fallen to below 200,000, and the U.S. military intervention began in 2003. The U.S. Central Command reported at least 686 Islamic State suspects killed in Iraq and Syria in 2022.