These were the words of the Secretary-General of Aid to the Church in Need, Philipp Ozores, when he announced in Iraq the beginning of a major new phase of support for Christians in the Nineveh Plains, involving the rehabilitation of church-owned properties, to restore a feeling of security to returned residents.
Two years after Mosul was liberated from its Islamist overlords, life in a Christian region to the north of Mosul, the Nineveh Plains, is slowly resuming as approximately 45% of the population has returned; shops have reopened, many houses have been repaired, and church life has resumed: catechism, radio, schools, and women’s groups. A large part of this return to normalcy has been supported by ACN’s benefactors, who have allowed the pontifical foundation to engage in a wide-ranging program of emergency aid and home rehabilitation.
Still, emigration remains a grave threat to the future of the region, where some people are losing hope that Christianity can flourish in Iraq, and look to countries like Australia and Germany for a better future. The rate of departures is such that urgent action is needed to restore security, and create positive reasons for the indigenous Christian people of Iraq to stay in their homeland.
In this context, ACN is shifting towards a new phase of projects designed to make people feel safe in the towns to which they have returned. These projects are all about rebuilding critical church infrastructure in several of the Christian towns and villages that dot the area.
Mr Ozores attended a meeting of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC), chaired by ACN Middle East Section Head Fr Andrzej Halemba, to announce several of these projects. Mr Ozores told participants of the solidarity of the global Catholic Church: “We are with you, and we will remain with you in Iraq.”
In the Nineveh Plains, ACN has funded the rehabilitation of 2,086 homes, or 37% of all homes that have been repaired. This program supported homes in Baghdeda, Bartella, Tesqopa, Karamless, Bashiqa, and Bahzani.