Religious Minorities find Protection in Southern Iraq

By Wassim Bassem for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Minority populations are suffering in areas under the control of militants in northern and western Iraq, where their temples have been destroyed and they are forbidden to build new ones.

Meanwhile, these groups are enjoying freedom and safety in the predominantly Shiite southern areas, where the Iraqi government sponsors and supervises construction and renovation projects and allocates large sums to protect the holy places of minority groups.

The Iraqi Cabinet's Office of Christian, Yazidi and Sabean Endowments oversees several temple construction and renovation projects, including the construction of the administrative building of the Church of Saint Mari, the Apostle of the Assyrian Church of the East.

This building has been allocated 250 million dinars ($214,000), and 90% of the project has been completed, the office's head Raad Kajaji said Oct. 1.

One such project, a Sabean "mandi," was completed Sept. 20 in the predominantly Shiite city of Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad.

Ayham Nasser, a Sabean Iraqi from Diwaniyah, told Al-Monitor, “The community members chose the Tigris River as the project’s location due to a link between their beliefs and the water.” He said that the mandi will begin operating in early 2017, adding, “The local government in Diwaniyah, in collaboration with the Ministry of Construction, has greatly helped facilitate the construction of the mandi.”

Nasser said, "Many Muslims living nearby are proud of this achievement, which they see as a symbol of religious tolerance at a time when religious extremism is widely spread across the region."

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