'Church Street'

Baghdad’s Al-Mu’allimeen neighborhood exemplifies coexistence

BAGHDAD — In East Baghdad’s Al-Mu’allimeen district, a mosque and a church stand side by side, symbolizing coexistence. This neighborhood, long home to a sizable Christian population, exemplifies the harmonious relationships among different faith communities. The Imam Ali Mosque was established in 2003, adjacent to the Chaldean Church of the Ascension, founded in 1974.

Wadood Samaan, a parishioner, told 964media, “Every Sunday, we gather for mass at the church, praying for peace and mercy for all. We’ve been part of this community for about 40 years, experiencing nothing but kindness and peace from our neighbors. Despite some [outward] migration, many of our families and other Christian households remain in Al-Mu’allimeen.”

The mention of migration touches on a broader trend of Christian exodus from Iraq, a significant concern over the past two decades. Following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq’s Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, has faced increased threats of violence, sectarian conflict, and persecution, accelerating their migration. From a population that numbered about 1.4 million in 2003, estimates now suggest that only a few hundred thousand remain.

This decline is a stark representation of the challenges facing religious minorities in Iraq, underscoring the resilience of those who choose to stay.

Mohammed Waleed, an official at the Imam Ali Mosque, also spoke with 964media. “Our relationship with the Christian residents, especially those from the church, is strong and positive. We join in each other’s celebrations and extend greetings during religious holidays, united by a shared commitment to peaceful coexistence,” he said.

Visitors to Al-Mu’allimeen, sometimes referred to as Church Street, note the close physical and communal ties between the mosque and the church. “The mutual respect and harmony here are palpable,” Waleed added. Despite the challenges and the trend of migration that has affected the Christian population in Iraq, the enduring bond between the mosque and the church in the Al-Mu’allimeen district serves as a poignant reminder of the potential for peaceful coexistence.

Bells of Bashara Church no longer ringing

Bells of Bashara Church no longer ringing