Egypt’s Copts consider establishing fund for Iraqi Christians
Displaced Christians wait for humanitarian aid at a church in Hamdaniya town, east of Mosul - REUTERS

CAIRO: The interdenominational Egyptian Council of Churches is considering a proposal to raise funds for Iraqi Christians from Mosul forced to flee their homes due to the religious persecution of the jihadist Islamic State (IS), said Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria spokesman Royce Morqos Thursday, Al-Shorouq reported.

On July 18, IS issued a decree saying that Christians and non-Muslims in areas under their control must convert to Islam, pay “jizyah” (a historical tax levied on non-Muslims that was eventually abolished by the Ottoman Empire), leave their homes or be executed.

Morqos said he welcomed the initiative, and called on Egypt to offer asylum to Iraqi Christians. He added Coptic Pope Tawadros II is keen on any initiative that helps Iraqi Christians.

Safwat al-Bayad, a leader among Egypt’s Protestants, said the church might raise funds for Iraqi Christians and that donations would be accepted from all Egyptians, not just Christians, Al-Shorouq reported.

However, Ikram Lamie, a professor of comparative religions at the Protestant Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, told The Cairo Post Friday that the money raised in Egypt would not be enough for the cause, and said he hoped international donors would also contribute.

He added that given the fact Egypt has struggled to raise funds to rebuild its own churches burnt or destroyed by Islamists and looters following the overthrow of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, it was unlikely Egypt’s financial generosity would be enough to have an impact in Iraq.

At a mass prayer for Middle East peace at the Abassyia Cathedral on July 24, Bishoy Halmy, the head of the Council of the Churches, said that around 25,000 Christians had fled Iraq and more than 30 churches had been destroyed, Youm7 reported.

However, a prominent official from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs who requested anonymity told The Cairo Post Friday that to his knowledge not a single Iraqi Christian had fled to Egypt following IS persecution.

More than a million Christians lived in Iraq prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion, and until their recent exodus, they had been present in Mosul for about 16 centuries, AFP reported on July 22.

International help for Iraqi Christians

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on July 28 said in regard to Iraq’s Christian refugees, “We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory,” the Wire news website reported.

However, “Al-Rafedin,” a parliamentary Christian bloc in Iraq, refused the French offer Wednesday. Bloc leader Yonadam Kanna said that the French offer harms Iraqi Christians and “interferes” in their domestic affairs, Anadolu reported.

Kanna also told CNN Wednesday that the French call for asylum serves IS aims to remove Christians from Iraq.

But Kanna’s stance didn’t stop a French delegation from traveling to Kirkuk in northern Iraq Thursday to observe the current situation for Christians there, Iraqi newspaper AlSumaria reported.

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