Religious Minorities find Protection in Southern Iraq

In the city of Hillah, located to the south of Baghdad, Christians celebrate Christmas every year in the Church of the Virgin Mary, the only church in the city, and they attend mass throughout the year.

Suhaila Abbas, a member of the Babil Provincial Council, told Al-Monitor, “The provincial council is determined to support minorities in the province and work on the renovation and expansion of places of worship.” She stressed, “The Hillah church will be restored as soon as the financial crisis calms.”

Christian Saeb Louay confirmed to Al-Monitor, “Christians in Hillah live in peace, have not faced any attacks and do not even need armed factions to protect them.” Louay went on, “Religious and sectarian diversity in Babylon intermingles cultures and contributes to building a world free of hatred,” and added, “The Church of the Virgin Mary, which was built in 1987 by the engineer Elias Boutros, needs reconstruction and renovation, and the local government has promised to do it.”

In the city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, head of the Mandaean community Samer Naeem Handal told Al-Monitor, “Ever since the restoration in 2014 of the Sabean mandi in Nasiriyah, which is located on Habboubi Street and whose establishment was supervised by the Housing Ministry in 2011, … there has been a clear harmony between the Muslim majority and the Sabean minority, which freely practices its rituals and even enjoys cooperation from Muslims in the city.” The facilities, he said, are enormous and modern and include a conference hall.

He added, “There is a common understanding of the social mores and religious traditions. A good example is that Christian and Sabean women willingly wear a veil in Muslim communities, especially during religious occasions. Also, Muslim women attend Christian and Sabean religious ceremonies.”

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