When Shiites from all over observed the Arbaeen holiday on Nov. 9, Christians in Basra also took part in the festivities to show their coexistence with the majority. However, their outward display of social interaction was marred by their fear and mistrust of the majority deep inside, AL MONITOR detailed.

In the past, Basra had been a remarkable example of cultural and religious coexistence, but the Iraqi city is reportedly in danger of losing its diversity because of the existing threats to non-Muslim minorities. The situation has forced Christians to distance themselves in an effort to maintain their religion and culture.

Upon the request of the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Basra, Habib Hermes, a Virgin Mary statue was taken from the Abbasiya district on Sept. 19 because of fears that the sculpture may be harmed by malicious entities to stir conflict. He pointed out that 90 percent of the Christians have left the city since 2003, and “undesirable consequences” could lead to destabilization of the community.

Patriarch Hermes thinks that it would be good if the Virgin Mary statue were to be placed inside a church, monastery, or a cemetery. That way, it would be protected from people seeking to stir sectarian conflict among the people of Basra.

Meanwhile, ASIA NEWS reported that a Christian educational institute is set to be opened in Basra for the first time since 1970. The Ministry of Education has reportedly allowed the local church to open a Christian primary school in September 2018 as part of its efforts to foster hope, generate jobs, and strengthen ties with Muslims.

The new school in Basra will employ Christian, Muslim, and Mandaean teachers. It will be constructed in the parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Tuwaisah.