Persecuted Christians Push for Middle Eastern Homeland

Attacks by ISIS on Mount Sinjar in August 2014 created an exodus of the Christian and the Yazidi communities. (Reuters)
Attacks by ISIS on Mount Sinjar in August 2014 created an exodus of the Christian and the Yazidi communities. (Reuters)

Christians driven from their ancestral homelands and persecuted by Islamist terrorists are pressing for an autonomous region of their own if the dust of Middle East violence ever settles.

Representatives of Iraq’s Christian and Yazidi communities, as well as members of other religious minorities, convened in Washington last weekend and put forward a plan to carve out a sovereign state in the Nineveh Plain. Their plan has the backing of several lawmakers, including Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., who introduced a congressional resolution supporting the idea last week.

“Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minorities have been slaughtered and driven from their homes by ISIL’s horrific genocide,” Fortenberry told advocacy groups at  In Defense of Christians’ national convention last week.

The plan is a response to declarations by Congress and the State Department last March that ISIS was responsible for genocide against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in the region. A safe zone that could evolve into a sovereign state could allow them to remain safe from the black-clad jihadist army, say backers.

“One next step must be the re-securitization and revitalization of the Nineveh Plain, allowing the repatriation of those who had to flee,” said Fortenberry. “This resolution, which follows on the government of Iraq’s own initiative to create a province in the Nineveh Plain region, seeks to restore the ancestral homeland of so many suffering communities.”

The Nineveh Plain region, also known as the Plain of Mosul, has been the ancestral homeland of Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac Christians, Yazidis and other minorities — all of whom were under attack from ISIS once the terror group started to take hold and control the region in 2014.

The Christian population in Iraq alone has plummeted from 1.5 million in 2003 to current estimates of 275,000 and could be gone for good within five years if no action is taken, according to a November 2015 report from international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The dwindling numbers are due to genocide, refugees fleeing to other countries, internal displacement and others who either hide or disavow their faith.

It has been estimated that a dozen Christian families flee Iraq each day. Christians who have managed to escape ISIS have fled to places like Europe and Lebanon, while members of the faith also are under increasing pressure in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.

Many of those who have been displaced want to return to their homeland, and see the Nineveh Plain as the cradle of their faith.

“Establishment of the Nineveh Plain Province is part of a larger strategy of decentralization that is aimed at stabilizing the Republic of Iraq by devolving power to local communities,” Robert Nicholson, executive director of the Philos Project, which worked with Fortenberry and other members of Congress to draft the resolution, told “We believe that the instability of Iraq has been caused largely by a central government that is too powerful, and local ethnic and religious blocs that feel cut out of the political process.”

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Perry Chiaramonte

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