IRAQI CHRISTIANS, RISING LIKE THE PHOENIX!
Christians in Iraq have suffered long years of persecution and Christianity in the region has been threatened with extinction. With the coalition led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the 2014 attacks by ISIS, the number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from 1.2 million to less than 350,000 today.
In July 2017, Iraqi forces liberated Mosul and the approximately 12 Christian villages on the Nineveh plains and thankfully Iraqi Christian IDPs are slowly returning to their homes.
For more than a year, more and more people are coming back and life is gradually picking up again.
Since 2014, Aid to the Church in Need has been at the forefront, contributing to emergency relief projects: rental housing, education, food and the livelihoods of displaced persons, sheltering mainly in the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Erbil and in 2017, the Foundation commissioned a Damage Assessment Survey to catalogue the level of destruction of almost 13,000 homes and 360 Church properties in the Nineveh Plains.
In 3 villages in the Nineveh plains, ACN has already begun the reconstruction of the first 105 houses belonging to displaced Christian families.
Father Georges Jahola, a Syriac Catholic priest is currently leading the reconstruction of his hometown Karakosh – known by the Christians as Baghdeda in Aramaic. This was once the largest Christian city in the region. As in the other places on the Nineveh Plain, the so-called “Islamic State” has also left a wreckage in Karakosh.
Speaking in an interview with ACN last week, Fr. Jahola revealed that “Reconstruction is progressing well, thanks to the support we receive. Our most important partner is and remains “Aid to the Church in Need”. I admire how much help we receive from the benefactors. That is a great sign of hope for us. In my hometown of Karakosch, we have already restored 35 per cent of homes in just 16 months. In the Nineveh Plains, there is already over 41 per cent. Many volunteers participate. The renovation of the partially damaged and collapse-endangered houses is completed. Now we tackle the burned and completely destroyed houses.”, he said.
According to Fr. Jahola, “we are already celebrating church services and festivals in the churches, even though they are almost all badly damaged and partially destroyed. For example, I celebrated the liturgy with the Syriac Catholic community of Karakosch in a soot-blackened church, in which concrete parts fall from the ceiling again and again.”
“The help we receive is a great sign of brotherhood! Every single post shows us that somewhere in the world someone thinks of us. “Aid to the Church in Need” makes that visible to us.”
The return of Christians to the Nineveh plains is of utmost importance to the Christian presence in the Middle East and it guarantees a peace-building process in this region.
“When Christians leave the Nineveh Plain, Muslims very often try to acquire their property. This tendency dates back to the eighties and nineties. For example, the small town of Telkef, about 20 kilometres north of Mosul, used to be a predominantly Christian city. Today only 20 per cent of Christians live there. Similar developments are currently in Bartella. There, members of the Shabak ethnic group are trying to buy more and more buildings. That is a very real danger!”, said Fr. Jahola.