On the 10th anniversary of ISIS seizing Mosul – heralding its invasion of the Nineveh Plains – an Iraqi archbishop has said more help is needed for the Christian community to thrive.

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said that around 9,000 Christian families have now returned to their homes in the Nineveh Plains after fleeing a decade ago when ISIS seized the region. He said he was grateful to the international community – including ACN – for providing emergency aid and helping to rebuild the destroyed villages, making it possible for thousands of Christian families to return to their native land, with “everyone working towards one goal”.

He added that “all those sad and terrifying memories are still there, but at least the Christian families could start building and showing that the future is in their hands”.

The archbishop underlined that the “churches are being filled again”, and “there are so many children” receiving catechesis and preparing for their First Holy Communion.

He went on to highlight the special role of the Catholic University of Erbil – Iraq’s only Catholic university, established in 2015 and supported by ACN – in nurturing Christian unity in the region. He said that his community needs all the help it can get to “keep the flame of the Christian faith shining” in Iraq’s historic Christian heartland.

Archbishop Warda explained that, even though persecution is no longer their main concern, “the pressure of being a minority is real”. He went on to call on the international community not to forget Iraq’s suffering Christians “in the midst of so many crises around the world”.

He expressed his gratitude for ACN’s help, saying: “The response from ACN and other Christian charities was a big help that made it possible for us to help those in need.

“We pray for you and for all our benefactors. We pray that whatever you give, we multiply it in a way that will help serve the needs of the people.”