Christianity is 'over' in Iraq and will not return, says former vicar of Baghdad

War-torn Middle Eastern nation was once home to around 1.5m Christians. There are now thought to be less than 250,000

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The Independent Online

Christianity is all but dead in war-torn Iraq, according to the so-called British “Vicar of Baghdad”.

Canon Andrew White, who was vicar of the only Anglican church in the country before being pulled out in 2014, said the “time has come” where Christianity “is over” in Iraq.

Mr White, from Kent, was speaking in a Fox News interview as the Iraqi military continues its offensive to drive Isis out of its major Iraqi stronghold Mosul, and after Donald Trump attempted to enforce a travel ban against six Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and north Africa. 

“The time has come where it is over, no Christians will be left,” Mr White said.

“Some say Christians should stay to maintain the historical presence, but it has become very difficult. The future for the community is very limited.

“The Christians coming out of Iraq and Isis areas in the Middle East all say the same thing, there is no way they are ever going back. They have had enough.”

Women and children treated for chemical weapon exposure in Mosul

There were approximately 1.5 million Christians (six per cent of population) in Iraq in 2003, but, according to charity Open Doors, there are only 250,000 left.

Father Emanuel Youkhana, of the Syrian Church of the East, has also said he does not see a future for Christians in Mosul.

There were approximately 35,000 Christians in Mosul a decade ago but there are thought to only be about 20 now.

Mr White, who is president and founder of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East but was suspended in June for “inaccurate statements”, continues to travel to Baghdad despite the security threat.

He still tries to mediate disputes between Shia and Sunni leaders and also undergoes stem cell treatment for multiple sclerosis in the city. A leading cleric has warned defeat for Isis in Mosul could speak a sectarian "genocide".

And he defended Mr Trump's measures to restrict travel from the Middle East to the US, praising the new President for wanting to help "persecuted Christians" in the region. “Many have this feeling that America is against them, and they need to show that America is not against Islam, America is against terrorism,” he said. 

“It is important to find ways to engage with them, to look into their philosophies.

“I tried to invite some of the Isis jihadists to dinner once. They told me they would come, but that they would chop my head off afterwards. I didn’t think it would be a nice way to end a dinner party.”

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