Is Northern Iraq headed for fresh uprising and violence? On September 25th, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, promises to hold a referendum initiating the process of independence from Iraq. Large oil fields to the East, many of which are under the authority of the KRG, are certainly a motivating factor, but what other price might be paid to settle this decades-old struggle?
On September 12th, in a definite push-back to the September 25th vote, the Iraqi Parliament met in Baghdad and unanimously rejected the Kurdish referendum, a move that many world leaders fear could set off fresh violence and divert attention away from settling the situation with the Islamic State in Mosul.
KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, nephew of KRG President Massoud Barzani, stated on September 13 that the referendum will be held on September 25. In a meeting with Mr. Kurt Georg Stockl-Stillfried, the new Consul General of Germany in Erbil, Prime Minister Barzani…stressed the referendum that the Kurdistan Region will hold later this month is a mean (sic) to define the relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region in a way to prevet (sic) the recurrence of past tragedies and atrocities committed against the people of Kurdistan. Retrieved from http://cabinet.gov.krd/?l=12.
How are Christians in this key harvest field viewing this possible referendum? Most are cautiously monitoring this tug of war. Those we spoke with recently feel there is real reason for concern, stating this decision could go very badly for Christians. Others, still struggling to find normalcy in their daily lives after losing everything to Islamic State, are numb to another government power struggle. Some go to work each day while others sit hopelessly in refugee camps; life varies greatly.
As millions of refugees’ lives hang in the balance with vital resources discussed and bargained for, refugees hope and pray for continued peace. Many Syrian refugees, most of whom are Kurds, are reluctant to leave the relatively stable life they now have and return to the chaos they face back home. For these families, some feel the referendum may further stabilize the region, making their settling in the Erbil region more sustainable.
With many nationalities, ethnic and religious groups co-existing in Kurdistan in relative peace, the question is whether the end of September will bring a fresh instability in this region.
Regardless of the outcome, our Indigenous Ministries national church planting teams, relief aid workers and Refugee Child Sponsorship Program staff continue to minister, as do many others in the region. We are grateful to the Kurdish government for creating a stable environment and a sanctuary for millions of refugees from war zones in Iraq and Syria. Please keep this great nation in your prayers this month, and especially our teams ministering God’s love and grace there.