Christians Pick Up More Seats in Iraqi Parliament

Christian leaders in Iraq are more hopeful after the country's federal Supreme Court approved the results of the Mar. 7 election this week.

After months of setbacks, the Supreme Court ratified the results of the election this past Tuesday and, in doing so, gave the country's Christian minority greater representation in the Iraqi parliament.

Though still few, the number of seats now held by Christians, 5, was hailed as a first step to equal rights by persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern (ICC), which said Christian representation in the Iraqi Parliament is imperative for the security of Iraqi Christians.

"We are hopeful that the elected Christian representatives in parliament will be a true voice for the plight of the Iraqi Christian community," commented Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East. "Christian representatives may now be in a better position than ever before to battle in parliament for the security that is needed for Iraqi Christians to feel safe again in their homeland."

Yonadam Kanna, an Iraqi Parliament member holding one of the five Christian seats, further expressed hope that the additional Christian seats will bring about changes that will even help bring back many of the Christians who have fled the violence-stricken country since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

According to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, some 250,000 to 500,000 Christians, or about half the Christian population, have left the country, over the past seven years.

"We would like to give compensation for those who fled [Iraq] to enable them to come back – to compensate them for what has been stolen or what they have lost," said Kanna, who is secretary general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement. "Some refugees from Europe and America may even come back when it is safe and when there are job opportunities in the country. In a few months to one year it should be safer for them to return."

ICC's Clay, however, emphasized that if the Christian representatives fail to help increase security, the extinction of Christianity in Iraq might soon be witnessed.

"It is a critical time in the Iraqi Christian's history, and our prayers are with the elected Christian parliament leaders who have a difficult task before them," he concluded.

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