Basra (Agenzia Fides) - The celebrations for the beginning of the new year 2017 gave civil authorities of the province of Basra this opportunity to spread many messages and signals of attention towards Christians. In particular, the president of the provincial Council in Basra, Khalaf Abdul al Samad during his visit to an Armenian church in Basra expressed his intention to offer consistent support for the restructuring and recovery activities in the churches, expressing on behalf of local authorities the call to Christian Iraqi immigrants to return to their land of origin, especially in areas liberated from the control of the jihadists.
Also in Basra, 590 km south of Baghdad, the Christian population – who once represented a significant component of the merchant class of the Iraqi city - has fallen dramatically in recent decades. Currently the baptized who live in Basra are a few hundred, while in the city, before the Iraq-Iran war, about 2,500 Christian families lived there. Last April, the Iraqi town saw the largest pilgrimage made by Iraqi Christians in recent years: about 200 Chaldeans from Baghdad to Ur, the historical site of lower Mesopotamia, now in the Iraqi governorate of Dhi Quar, which is generally identified with the birthplace of Patriarch Abraham, father of all believers. Led by Chaldean Bishop Basil Yaldo and seven priests, Christians belonging to different communities and parishes in Baghdad had lived the pilgrimage as a strong moment in the spirit of the Year of Mercy. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 02/01/2017)