Published: 2017-09-20 12:34
Last Updated: 2017-09-20 15:32
Local Iraqi authorities removed a Virgin Mary statue from the city centre of Basra, southern Iraq, just hours before its big reveal.
The statue was take away in the early hours of Tuesday morning upon the request of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate of Basra, Habib Hermes, after fearing a potential sectarian backlash, reported AFP.
Jabbar Al Saedi, Head of the Basra Security Committee, told AFP that “the statue was removed upon the request of our Christian brothers,” adding that the person behind the idea wanted to erect the statue to “destabilize the community.”
The statue had been erected by the Basra Armenian Organization for Relief and Development before local authorities closed off the public park where it was placed and prohibited people from entering the premises.
Since 2003, 90 percent of Basra’s Christians have immigrated from Iraq, with just 350 Christian families left in the southern city, according to Hermes.
Hermes told AFP that he feared that had the statue been vandalized, it would have struck fear amongst the remaining Christian families and might have led to their immigration as well.
There are 15 churches in Basra, but only four of them are used today.
The number of Christians in Iraq dropped from more than one million people to under 400,000, after the US invaded Iraq in 2003, and when the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) took over parts of the country in 2014.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition