The top United Nations envoy to Iraq today issued seasonal wishes to the country's Christians and to all Iraqis amid fears of a surge in violence targeting the country's Christian population.
In a statement coinciding with Christmas Eve, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq Ad Melkert wished all Iraqis, and in particular Iraqi Christians, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
“Iraqi religious and ethnic minorities are not only an integral part of Iraqi society, but they are a critical component in shaping the future of the country,” said Mr. Melkert, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
He noted the important role Iraq's Christians have historically played in maintaining the country's unique and rich societal fabric, and their continued contribution to preserving national unity in the face of adversity.
The Iraqi army said last week it had put its forces on alert in areas with significant Christian populations because of intelligence reports that they could be attacked.
In the last month, there has been an increase in deadly attacks against Christians in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. In October last year, more than 12,000 Christians fled Mosul following an upsurge in attacks, threats and intimidation. Some later returned.