The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq renewed his opposition this week to an article in the nation’s new national laws requiring minority-faith children to become Muslims if one parent converts to Islam.

Describing the new law as both unconstitutional and “unacceptable,” Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako has called on President Fouad Masoum to send Article 26.2 of the National Charter back to Parliament to be amended.

Iraqi Christian MPs, together with Yazidi, Mandean and Baha’i deputies, had proposed a modified draft of the law, to read: “Minors will keep their current religion until the completion of 18 years of age, when they have the right to choose their religion.” The amendment was defeated in Parliament on 27 October by a vote of 137 to 51.

Patriarch Sako told Aid to the Church in Need that the current law “tramples over” several provisions of the Iraqi Constitution, including Article 37.2, which “guarantees the protection of the individual against any doctrinal, political or religious coercion.”

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Religion and Belief focused on the religious rights of children in an October 22 report, calling for nation states to respect freedom of choice for minors and their parents, “particularly minorities and converts.”

Iraq’s religious minorities have staged two demonstrations protesting against the new “discriminatory” regulation, on 4 Nov in front of Erbil’s UN headquarters and on 10 Nov at Baghdad’s Chaldean Church of St. George.