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Violence Still Plagues Christians in Iraq
By Wassim Bassem

BAGHDAD -- Christian leaders say Iraq's monasteries and churches could soon become mere relics unless something is done to curb the violence against Christians. During an Aug. 26 press conference, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch Mar Ignatius Joseph III Younan described Christians as "the most targeted and most vulnerable" minority in the region -- and not just because of the Islamic State (IS).

This comes as Iraqi Christians in general, and Armenians in particular, prepare for the post-IS phase. Many of those who were driven from their homes in the Ninevah Plains are deciding whether to return. On Aug. 9, Iraqi Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Farid Rwandzi received Armenian leaders to discuss promoting their community's cultural activity.

In June, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Iraq, Archbishop Avak Asadourian, and representatives of Armenian committees and groups visited some of the liberated villages and towns of Ninevah, including Aghajanian, one of the areas IS had occupied since 2014 after either killing or forcing out its residents.

Now that IS is gone from the village, there's a possibility that Christian areas in the plains could be included in the controversial Kurdistan Regional Government independence referendum scheduled for Sept. 25. However, on Aug. 27, the Assyrian Democratic Movement, which is Christian, called for steering the Ninevah Plains clear from the conflicts and keeping the area out of the referendum.

Read the full story here.

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