Catholic charity helping to rebuild Christian villages in Nineveh region

On Monday 8 May on three separate sites in the villages of Bartella, Karamless and Qaraqosh of the Nineveh Plains, international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is holding an “Olive Tree Ceremony.” Planting olive trees will mark the beginning of rebuilding work on the first 100 of 13,000 private houses destroyed by Islamic State.

Olive trees will be given to the owners of the destroyed houses to be planted close to their homes. The trees convey a strong message to these families: “Put back your roots where you were born, live and bring fruits of peace and reconciliation.“

Father Andrzej Halemba, ACN’s representative for the Middle East, who is an acting chairman of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee has described this event as a “historic and unrepeatable occasion for the future of Christianity in Iraq”. He stated:

“This is a decisive historical moment. If we now miss the opportunity to help the Christians return to their homes on the Plains of Nineveh, these families might well decide to leave Iraq forever. That would be an enormous tragedy. The presence of the Christians in this region is of vital importance, and not only historically, but also politically and culturally. The Christians represent a bridge of peace between the various Muslim groups that are fighting each other; they make a crucial contribution to the educational system and are respected by all moderate Muslims.”

Among those present at the “Olive Tree Ceremony“ to mark the start of rebuilding work will be the members of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC), together with three expert consultants appointed by ACN and Mr Philipp Ozores, secretary general of ACN.

The Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC) includes representatives of the three main Christian Churches in the region, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Syriac Catholic Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church. The Committee was set up on 27 March this year in order to plan and supervise the reconstruction of the nearly 13,000 Christian homes damaged (669 of them totally destroyed) by IS forces during their occupation of the region. The overall cost of the rebuilding programme is estimated at over 250 million dollars. ACN has already made available 450,000 euros to the committee and to the three Christian churches it represents.