Prime Minister Barzani discusses assistance for Christians with Pope’s special envoy

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani today received Cardinal Fernando Filoni, special envoy of Pope Francis, and his accompanying delegation.

The envoy conveyed the Pope’s greetings and gratitude to Prime Minister Barzani for the help and support provided by the government and the people of the Kurdistan Region to displaced Christians. Most of the Christians came from the Ninevah plains and Mosul. The delegation also applauded the KRG effort to protect all other internally displaced people fleeing terrorists.

Prime Minister Barzani reiterated that it is the duty of the KRG to protect and support displaced Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic groups seeking refuge in the Kurdistan Region. He said he would mobilise all resources to support them; however, given the number of refugees and displaced people, the KRG cannot provide adequate assistance. It is therefore necessary for the Iraqi government and the international community to promptly provide humanitarian assistance.

The Prime Minister added that Christians, Yezidis, and other minority groups are natives of the area, with historic roots in the region. They need physical protection from the terrorists, not only verbal support, because the terrorists target churches, mosques, and shrines. Prime Minister Barzani noted that the terrorists now constitute an army and include individuals from all over the world, so the international community, in coordination with the KRG and the Government of Iraq, must confront them together.

In the meeting both sides agreed upon the importance of international protection for all ethnic and religious communities native to the Ninevah plains, including Christians, Yezidis, Shia, Sunnis, Turkmen, Shabak, Kurds, and Arabs. Both parties agreed to exert international pressure to facilitate the creation of such an international protection force.

The Cardinal requested the KRG to identify solutions for housing and accommodation for the displaced, as well as an arrangement for students so that they would not lose an academic year. The Prime Minister promised to follow-up on this request and coordinate with relevant KRG authorities to implement appropriate measures.

During the meeting it was decided to establish a committee in Erbil between KRG authorities and relevant Christian community leaders to respond to the immediate needs of displaced people, with similar committees to be formed in other provinces.

The delegation stated that Christians will never forget the support provided by the government and the people of Kurdistan, and that history will record these actions. Prime Minister Barzani urged the delegation to mobilise the Vatican’s international influence to support the Kurdistan Region and the displaced families it is hosting.

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