Dr. Widad Welcomes Opening of First Armenian Church in Erbil



Dr. Widad Welcomes Opening of First Armenian Church in Erbil



Oslo, April 8, 201– Dr. Widad Akreyi welcomes the opening of the first Armenian church in Erbil and asks regional leaders to respect the rights of Christians in the MENA region and protect them from religious persecution.

Dr. Widad Akreyi, a multiple award-winner for her human rights activities and co-founder of Defend International, has issued a statements that reads:

We are pleased to see the Church of the Holy Cross opening its doors for Christian Armenians who have fled to Kurdistan region, leaving their homes behind because of religious intolerance and the rise of Islamic extremism.

On 6 April 2019, the first Armenian Orthodox Church was officially opened for public worship in a special ceremony in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan region, Iraq.

We are very appreciative of this message. The importance of religious tolerance cannot be overstressed. The protection of religious liberty and the recognition of religious plurality are critically important in the promotion of tolerance and social cohesion. Religious freedom should be a widely acknowledged component of our societies. Ensuring tolerance of religion and belief is the first step towards encouraging peaceful coexistence among nations and is key to building global peace.

On this special occasion we congratulate our Armenian brothers and sisters in Erbil on being finally able to pray in their own house of worship.

Armenians have suffered hardship and persecution on account of their faith. During World War I, over one and a half million innocent children, women and men were forcibly uprooted from their properties and systematically annihilated by the Turkish Empire solely because of their Christian faith. Following this genocide many Armenians escaped to today’s Kurdistan region and elsewhere. Tragically, this is but one of many examples of persecution and intolerance in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Therefore, today we not only celebrate the opening of the first Armenian Church in Erbil, but we also ask regional leaders to protect minorities from persecution in the MENA region, and we vow to honor and remember the innocent victims of the Armenian genocide, as well as of other crimes against humanity.

We thank the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs for building the Church of the Holy Cross at a cost of over $1.8 million. It must be noted that this church is not the only Armenian church located in Kurdistan region. For instance, another church was built in the village of Havresk in the Kurdish province of Duhok in 2011 through a generous donation by the Association of Churches in Germany and Switzerland.

We hope that all peoples in the MENA region will resolve to practice tolerance and live together in peace and harmony.

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For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact media@defendinternational.org



Dr. Widad is a preeminent peace-builder, humanitarian and human rights defender. A winner of several awards, the renowned champion of justice and gender equality has become a global voice for the voiceless, first and foremost the women and girls abducted, sold and enslaved in the Middle East. Originally from Kurdistan, Widad now lives in the West and holds a Master’s degree in genetics and a PhD in global health and cancer epidemiology. She has been on the Executive Board of a variety of national and international organisations like Education for Global Peace, Women of Europe Award and Amnesty International, and has successfully advocated for the adoption of three international UN agreements (e.g., Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict) and served as ambassador of Stop Torture campaign and Stop Violence against Females campaign. Her historic novel, The Vikings Kurdish Love: A True Story of Zoroastrians Fight for Survival, is relevant to current events. For more information please visit Dr. Widad’s website at widad.org