Pope Francis began a multiday tip to Iraq on Friday — the first for a sitting pontiff. The visit comes at a fraught time for the country, which remains wracked with political turmoil, economic crisis and flashes of violence, alongside an ongoing battle to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The trip, in the face of a litany of potential risks, is particularly rich in symbolism for Iraq’s embattled minority Christian communities, whose numbers dwindled amid the widespread insecurity that followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and, later, the threat of the Islamic State.