From March 5 to 8, 2021, Pope Francis will visit the troubled Land of Two Rivers, a common translation of the old name, Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq. Accepting the invitations of the Republic of Iraq and the local Catholic Church, Pope Francis is due to make an apostolic journey to the country, visiting Baghdad, the Plain of Ur, which is linked to the memory of Abraham, the city of Erbil, as well as Mosul, Qaraqosh, on the Plain of Nineveh, and Najaf.
This is the first time a pope has visited that land, where the Christian community has been a presence since apostolic times, and where there are still some small communities that speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. In recent years – particularly since 2014, when part of the country was occupied by the self-styled Islamic State caliphate – these communities have greatly reduced in number. It seems that today there are about 120,000 Christians in the Nineveh region, while before 2003, that is, before the U.S. invasion, more than a million Christians lived there.
Iraq is a predominantly Islamic country (95 percent). According to some often contested estimates, 64 percent (according to others, 69 percent) of the Muslims are Shiites, while 29 percent (according to others, 34 percent) are Sunnis. The religious minorities belong to different religious denominations: Christian, Yazidi, Shabak and Mandean.
In this article we will not deal with the religious theme, which we have already dealt with in another article, but with the political situation of the Iraqi State which, after long years of bloody conflict, is seeking economic, social and political normalization.