The Christians of Iraq are one of the oldest Christian communities of the Middle East and only one decade ago, they were the largest. Unfortunately, nowadays they are on the verge of extinction.
Christians of Iraq mainly (Chaldeans, Assyrian, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenians and Protestant) are decreasing in number especially after the war on Iraq on 2003. They were numbered around 1,500,000 in 2003. But after the persecution against Christians whether through threat, kidnapping or killing in addition to others who flee the country seeking safer places, they were numbered between 350,000 – 400,000 in 2011. Presently, they are estimated between 330,000 –350,000 in 2012.
The vast majority the Christians are Aramaic-speaking ethnic Assyrians and Chaldeans with much smaller numbers of Armenians, Arabs, and Turkmen.
Christians live primarily in Baghdad, Basrah, Mosul, Erbil and Kirkuk. In addition, they have their own villages in the north. The majority of the Iraqi Christians belong to the Eastern Rite churches including:
- Chaldean Catholic Church
- Assyrian Church of the East
- Syriac Orthodox Church
- Syriac Catholic Church
In addition, there are Churches of the Armenian Rite as well as other churches and communities such as the Roman Catholic Church (Latin) and the protestant.
If we go back to the Bible, we can find stories happened in Iraq such as the Tower of Babel in Babylon, south of Iraq “Book of Genesis”, and the story of Jonah in Nineveh, known as Mosul today “Book of Jonah”.
Christians of Iraq are characterised with special features that distinct them from the others. As for their cultures and traditions, the Assyrians, for example, who are traced back to pre-Islamic and pre-Arab Mesopotamia, they have their own culture and traditions. For instance, they have special outfits that they wear in their occasions such as weddings and cultural festivals. Moreover, they celebrate their New Year day in the 1st of April each year. This is called “Akito” according to the Assyrian calendar.
Furthermore, in Iraq there are places where ancient monasteries are found. Each monastery represents a saint and tells his story. Christians used to visit these places either for prayers during the mass on Sundays or for making a request from God to answer a specific issue that they face. They also go there for social gatherings.
Finally, a distinctive characteristic that Christians are well known about is that their peaceful personality. They are trusted by others. They do not cause any problems and they lived in coexistence with others from different religions and backgrounds. But unfortunately, this was not a plus for them as prejudice and violence are practiced against them. This led thousands of people to leave their cities in Iraq heading either to Kurdistan or to other countries around the world.