In Iraq, “the entire economy is in a desperate situation due to internal conflict, civil unrest, continuing corruption and now the crushing impact of the covid pandemic,” he said. And for Christians who have already left Iraq, he noted that “we cannot realistically say that we expect these people to return at any time in the near future.”
Some of those displaced by ISIS have moved multiple times, making them even more reticent to return home, Clancy said.
Even in villages such as Teleskov where many Christians returned home, “every week we have two, three families leaving,” Father Salar Kajo, a Chaldean Catholic priest of the town, told CNA in 2019.
As the Nineveh Plain Reconstruction Committee planned for the resettlement of the region after ISIS, a high number of internally-displaced Christians initially said they wanted to return home, Clancy said. However, as the concerns grew sharper, over time that number dwindled. Eventually, only one-third of Christians “truly had enough of a gumption” to return home because of the economic and security concerns.
If not “given something that helps them stay,” said Clancy, there will be “such a small minority” that remain.
And perhaps even more concerning is the exodus of young people from Iraq, he said. While unemployment might be high among the general populace, it is multiple times higher among Christians, and even higher for young Christians.
If the young Christians do not return home, then Christianity in Iraq would essentially have no future, warned Clancy. “It would just become a museum Church,” he said.
The future of Iraq must include its ethnic and religious minorities, and the elimination of militias, Archbishop Warda said.
“The international community must understand that this requires their continued close attention to the plight of the remaining minorities in Iraq,” he said.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Prime Minister Al-Kazemi met with Secretary of State Pompeo and President Trump, while in town for the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Dialogue.
On a conference call with reporters earlier in the week in advance of the visit, an administration official was asked about the militias, and said that the U.S. must work with Iraq to ensure “the right composite mixture of security forces in the right ratios and in the right places.”
(Story continues below)
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In a joint press conference on Thursday, Trump was asked about the end of militias in Iraq and the country’s stability. He answered that “we’re helping where we can,” and that Iraq is “a separate country.” He added that “we were there, and now we’re getting out,” and touted “very big oil deals.”