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Christians in Iraq: The Transition from Religious to Secular Identity

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In the Middle Eastern societies, Christians traditionally define themselves as religious communities or churches. This is a continuation of the Ottoman millet system, where religion determined the place one had in society and the patriarch was responsible for the insertion of his community into the state. It not only preserves the traditional ecclesiastical divisions based on dogmatic divergences and church politics but also transposes them to the political field.For a few decades, many lay politicians in Syria considered this system as detrimental to Christian interests. They developed the idea of a common ethnic identity for all churches using Syriac. New political circumstances in Iraq made it possible to give a political translation of this idea by the creation of Christian political parties, defending common ethnic minority rights. Despite some positive results, attempts at creating unity failed, not only because a lack of unanimity about certain political choices but also about the idea of ethnic identity itself.

Affiliations: 1: University of Louvain, Belgium,


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