Religious diversity in Iraq

Our 10th Iraq trip in February 2022

A report by David Müller

Ashur Kasrani, who has returned from abroad, brings life and hope back to the Nahla Valley, close to nature and in the old Assyrian tradition.

At the very interesting day seminar of the Iraq Religious Freedom And Anti-Discrimination Roundtable (IRFAR) with competent actors from politics, university and civil society. The topic: “Promoting religious freedom in Iraq: Opportunities and Challenges.”

We made many new important friends, including Prof. Omar Najm Al-Din (Picture 1), Dean at the University of Kirkuk, and Dr. Mahmoud Ezzo Hamdo (Picture 2), Professor of Political Science at the University of Mosul.

We are a welcome guest at the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Kurdish Regional Government. Our friend Mariwan Naqshbandi (Picture 1) has been working there for 27 years. He is credibly and courageously committed to religious freedom and the peaceful coexistence of religions. He also introduced me to Soud Msto (Picture 2), the new Director General for Yazidi affairs, and Faris Jawhar (Picture 3), the new Director General for Islamic affairs. I had a very friendly and open conversation with both of them. They would like to stay in contact with us.

Whoever comes to Northern Iraq must visit Alqosh. It is one of the oldest Christian villages in Iraq. The first mention is in the time of the Assyrian Empire about 750 BC. I finally met our friends again after a long time: Mayor Lara Yousif Zara and Bishop Coadjutor Thabet Habeb Yousif Al Mekko. A visit to the newly renovated tomb of the biblical prophet Nahum was also very impressive.

Meeting with various mayors (muchtars) of villages of the Kaka’i religious community in the Nineveh Plain. Directly on the current “border” between Kurdish and Iraqi military. During the time of the so-called “Islamic State” this was a war zone.

A very impressive day with Shamoon Esho, the Deputy Governor of Dohuk Province, and other friends in the Nahla Valley. The people in this beautiful area have long-term ideas and want to stay here. They need more international attention and support.

Pastor Saman has been leading a church of Christians who have a Muslim background for many years. He has provided very helpful insights into the situation of these people, some of whom live in very vulnerable circumstances. (It was his express wish that we publish his picture. He has had bad experiences himself and keeps receiving threats. However, he courageously stands by his Christian convictions in public)
Visiting our friend and long-time partner Emanuel Youkhana, Founder and Executive director of the Iraqi relief organization CAPNI, is always a great pleasure and very instructive every time.
Very interesting conversation with Awat Darya, Representative of the Zoroastrians in the Kurdish Ministry of Religious Affairs. Before the emergence of Islam, this was one of the main religions here.
We have a real friendship with both of them: Fuad Nowroz (left), a tribal leader (Said) of the Kaka’i, and Amer Seido (right), a prince (Mir) of the Yezidis.
After 2.5 years we met our Yazidi friend Saido Jato Haso again. He is the former Chairman of the Council of the Province of Nineveh (capital: Mosul). It is very helpful to hear from an experienced politician about the partly very hopeless situation of the Yazidis.
On the road in Erbil with our friend Saad Salloum. He is tirelessly active for religious freedom, interreligious dialogue and peaceful coexistence. We were also joined by some professors from Baghdad University. We had exciting conversations about politics & religion, psychology & mental health and many current issues about Germany, Muslims there and our Christian culture. We became good friends.
Kaldo Ramzi, Director of the Syriac Heritage Museum in Erbil, works tirelessly to communicate the country’s history and Chaldean-Syrian-Assyrian-Christian heritage. Only those who know the past have a future!
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