Christian Endowment, SBAH, Baghdad Mayorality

The Syriac Catholic Church in Shorja, the central marketplace in Baghdad, has just been demolished. Current plans by concerned authorities are to rebuild it as a commercial development. The Church of the Virgin Mary Immaculate, built in 1841, had deteriorated over time and its dome collapsed in 2018. However, its arches and columns had remained in good condition and the building could have been restored. All the more that it was listed as a heritage site like four other churches in Baghdad. Instead, the authorities chose to destroy what remained of it and design plans for a new building. Although the elevation features Christian symbols on the front façade, the interior scheme shows more than 15 spaces intended for shops. According to media reports, the Church of Divine Wisdom in Adhamiya, founded in 1932, and the Catholic monastery in the Dora neighbourhood are up for sale to be converted into residential or commercial properties.

This comes in a context where the Christian population in Baghdad has dwindled to alarmingly low levels and where there have been attacks on churches and worshippers. Many churches have been forced to close their doors due to low attendance. The Christians are being pushed out of Iraq, and now so are their traces.

We call on the Syriac Catholic Church authorities, the Christian Endowment in Iraq, the State of Board of Heritage and Antiquities (SBAH) and the Baghdad Mayorality to reconsider current plans to turn the Syriac Catholic Church in Shorja into a commercial development which disrespects its status as a religious building and place of memory. We also express our concerns about three other churches officially designated as heritage in various districts of Baghdad: the Armenian Orthodox Church in Midan, Santa Theresa Chaldean church in Sinak, and the Chaldean Umm Al Ahzan Church. All these buildings are protected under Law 55 of 2002 for the Antiquities and Heritage. In the same way as they protect the Khulafa Mosque in Central Baghdad, concerned authorities have a legal duty to conserve and restore historic churches. They are symbols of Iraqi Christians' identity and testimonies of Baghdad's history of religious pluralism,

We call on all concerned authorities to respect the religious and cultural heritage of the Christians and other minorities in Baghdad and throughout Iraq and not to erase their traces.

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The Save Baghdad Churches from Destruction petition to Christian Endowment, SBAH, Baghdad Mayorality was written by Geraldine Chatelard and is in the category Culture at GoPetition.