Give Christians the Opportunity to go back home

ISIS commited Genocide in Iraq*

*As recognised by the European Parliament and the US Department of State

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The Apostle Thomas evangelised Iraq – which was then Mesopotamia – in the first century

Iraqi Christians speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ

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Before 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Now there are around 300,000 Christians left

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Iraq: “We are talking about genocide here”

 

Father Andrzej Halemba heads ACN’s Middle East Section. In 2014, shortly after the Islamic State’s invasion of Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, he visited the displaced Christians of Iraq: “It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced.”

 

By Oliver Maksan

 

ACN: Father Halemba, you were recently in Iraq. Do the Christians there still have hope?

 

It is a very difficult situation. Without question, we are talking about genocide here. Genocide is not only when the people are killed, but also when the soul of a people is destroyed. And that is what is happening in Iraq now. It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced. I have seen people who have been deeply wounded in their soul. In the various crises in this world I have often seen people who have lost everything. But in Iraq there are Christians who have had to leave everything and take flight three or four times. They can see no light at the end of the tunnel. They are all very traumatised. Normally in such situations it is the women who pull everything together. But in Kurdistan I have seen women who have looked into nothingness and have closed up on themselves. The tears in their eyes are dry. It is something that I have never seen anywhere else. The men, by contrast, tend to aggressiveness. This has to do with the fact that they are no longer able to fulfil their previous role as the breadwinner and protector of their family. Now they have to beg for everything and they have no perspective.

 

ACN: Do you have the impression that the Christians wish to leave Iraq?

 

When one has lost all hope, one wishes to leave one’s homeland. The majority do not wish to return to their homes. This is a bad sign for the future of Christianity in Iraq. The Christians feel that in Iraq they have been betrayed and abandoned, and they want to get out. The Kurdish fighters who were supposed to defend the Christian areas against ISIS assured the Christians that they were safe. And suddenly ISIS overran the Christian towns and villages. Often they could not even take a change of clothes with them. That is a bitter feeling, to have nobody on whom one can depend. It reminds many Christians of the massacres in the Ottoman era, 100 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of Christians were slaughtered.

 

ACN: According to the Church, more than 120,000 Christians are now in flight. Do you have the impression that they are receiving the aid that they need?

 

The Christians are not being helped, either by the central Iraqi government or by the Kurdish regional government. So they feel like second-class citizens. This is not the least reason why they are so angry. The Christians are mainly left to their own devices. Naturally there is aid from outside. But the Christians can only come by it through their own efforts. We have true heroes of neighbourly love in Iraq. Bishops, priests and members of religious orders, but also lay people, have done exemplary work on behalf of their fellow people, and are still doing so.

 

ACN: What is the greatest humanitarian challenge at the present time?

 

The coming winter, of course. It can get very cold in Kurdistan, and it can snow. The rains are already starting to come. With the aid of ACN, we are trying to re-house the people from tents into accommodation containers. But in my opinion the greatest challenge is the mentality of the people. Are they already determined to turn their backs on Iraq and the Middle East for ever? This is where we must take action and give the people hope.

 

ACN: How?

 

Above all, the people must once again believe in the future of their ancient and beautiful country. So the international community must work towards ensuring that the government in Baghdad is strengthened and incorporates all the religious and ethnic groups in the country. Only in this way can ISIS be ultimately defeated.

 

ACN: How does ACN intend to continue to support the Christians of Iraq?

 

We have made some four million euros available to help the people and give new hope. The accommodation situation, in particular, must be improved. It is often the case that more than twenty people are having to live together in one room in the emergency accommodation. This is unacceptable in the long run. So we are paying the rents on decent apartments in Erbil, and also in Dohuk and Zakho, so that the people can again have a few square metres for themselves. In addition, we must improve the situation of the children. The children should be in schools, not on the streets. We are helping to furnish eight schools for 900 children each. This also gives encouragement to the people, because it means that at least the children can have a kind of normal life. When they are going to school, they are no longer thinking about ISIS all the time. The children are our particular concern. Christmas is coming, and we want to give them a Christmas present. We will provide gifts for 15,000 children. Each package will cost about 25 dollars. Many volunteers will assist in their distribution. And every package will contain a card, calling upon the children to pray for the benefactors throughout the world. This will give them the feeling that they have not been abandoned.

ISIS have deliberately destroyed several religious and cultural sites, as well as the villages and homes of thousands of Christian families

Nineveh Plains, Iraq’s ancient Christian heartland, have been desolate since ISIS occupied them in 2014, causing hundreds of thousands of Christians living there to flee.

Living for two years under the occupation of the Islamic State

Living for two years under the occupation of the Islamic State

 

By Jaco Klamer for Aid to the Church in Need

 

At the end of 2016, Ismail fled the Iraqi city of Mosul with his mother Jandark Behnam Mansour Nassi (55), after they had to survive under the terror of IS for over two years. Ismail and Jandark now live in Erbil, in the Iraqi Kurdish Autonomous Region. They tell us their story and look back at the time spent under Islamic State.

 

“My mother and I were at home in Bartella, one of the Christian villages in the Nineveh Plane” says Ismail. “When we woke up one August morning, the city had been taken by IS. We tried to get away, but we were robbed by the Jihadists, captured and taken to Mosul.”

 

“I was very afraid,” says his mother Jandark, a widow. “Our names were written down, and we had no idea where we were and what would happen to us. We were completely shut off from the outside world. Shortly after, we received permission to return to Bartella, but at a check point we had to convert to Islam and when we refused, they hit us. My son was put in prison. He was only fourteen years old.”

 

“I was put in the prison of Bartella,” confirms Ismail. “One day a Shiite was shot right in front of me. The terrorists told me: ‘If you do not convert to Islam, we will shoot you as well’. That is when I converted to Islam. From that time on, we concealed that we were Christians.”

 

Ismail was released and, with his mother, dragged from pillar to post: from Bartella, to multiple neighbourhoods in Mosul, and to the small village Bazwaya, just steps away from Mosul.

 

“We received a paper from IS stating that we were Muslims,” continues Ismail. “That way, I could go on the street in Mosul, but on the streets, you could not be sure of your life. Once, I was beaten up because my trousers were too long.”

 

“Once, when I was going to the mosque with the Jihadists early in the morning, our path was blocked. Suddenly we were passed by men in orange suits, held at gunpoint by a group of IS children. The children executed them with pleasure.”

 

“Another time I ran into a big crowd on the street. There was a woman; her hands and feet were tied. The IS terrorists drew a circle around her. If she got out of the circle, she would live, but that was impossible because she was tied. While her relatives were crying and begging for a pardon, the Jihadists threw stones at her until she died.”

 

“IS made me go to a correctional camp. I had to grow out my hair and grow my beard. My mother got a black, concealing robe, but was not allowed to go on the streets. IS warriors wanted me to marry, so I would be one of them. I objected, stating that I was too young: fifteen years. They were not impressed, because even boys of thirteen were married. The terrorists wanted me to join them. They were convinced: ‘our state will survive everything.’”

 

“My son was forced by IS to practice Islam and I was tortured for not knowing anything about Islam and the Koran,” says his mother, Jandark. “Yes, I am embarrassed for having had to profess Islam,” affirms Ismail.

 

“IS warriors made me pray,” says Ismail. “I received a prayer rug on which I could call upon Allah. Men were obligated to pray in the mosque on Friday. Anyone who would walk on the streets during the Friday prayer would be beaten. In the mosque, we were told that Assyrians were evil and that Christians did not believe in the right way. My mother should have to pray at home but she did not pray to Allah.”

 

“Then the IS warriors found my necklace with a cross, a sign that I am a Christian. The Jihadists beat me and I had to study the Koran for a month. I was hit whenever I could not answer their questions the way they wanted me to, and my mother was stung with long needles because she had not studied anything from the Koran.”

 

“One day we heard that Qaragosh – another Christian village in the Nineveh plain occupied by ISIS – had been freed, and that the liberation troops had chased the Jihadists out of Bartella. Soon after that the air attacks on Mosul started, and many people fled. IS also fled and, in the hurry, even left some weapons. However, they did take people with them on their way through Mosul, including my mother and me. For three days, we were under the control of a Jihadist.”

 

“When the terrorists grew too busy with the battle, they abandoned us. Again, we heard about the advancing army. We took a taxi to the front, heading towards our freedom, but Jihadists blocked us. Later, we tried to escape again. On our way, we ended up at the front: IS snipers tried to shoot us. We ran for cover into a house. After hours of fighting, my mother and I were able to leave the house, waving a white flag. Soldiers of the Iraqi liberation army welcomed us. We were free!”

Nineveh Plains Reconstruction Process

NINEVEH GENERAL DATA + Telleskuf + Baqofa + Batnaya + Telekef + Bahzani + Bashiqua + Bartella + Karamless + Bakhdida

Nineveh Plains Reconstruction Process

  • 12970

    Damaged Houses
  • 1233

    Totally Destroyed
  • 3521

    Burnt
  • 8216

    Partially Damaged
  • 9320

  • Number of Houses Registered to be Renovated
  • 232

  • Number of Houses Actually Being Renovated
  • 342

  • 2%

    Properties already restored
  • 14880

  • Number of families prior to 2014
  • 3365

  • Number of Christians Returned
  • 599

  • 4%

    Families returned to Nineveh Plains

Telleskuf

Restoration Process and Returnees

772 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

3860 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

1268

Damaged

  • 69

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 95

    Houses Burnt

  • 1104

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 50

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 1147

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Batnaya

Restoration Process and Returnees

0 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

0 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

967

Damaged

  • 520

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 105

    Houses Burnt

  • 342

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 0

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 572

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Karamless

Restoration Process and Returnees

2 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

12 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

754

Damaged

  • 89

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 241

    Houses Burnt

  • 424

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 12

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 754

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Telekef

Restoration Process and Returnees

0 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

0 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

443

Damaged

  • 231

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 56

    Houses Burnt

  • 156

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 23

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 23

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Mosul

Restoration Process and Returnees

0 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

0 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

0

Damaged

  • 0

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 0

    Houses Burnt

  • 0

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 0

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 0

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Alqosh

Restoration Process and Returnees

0 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

0 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

0

Damaged

  • 0

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 0

    Houses Burnt

  • 0

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 0

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 0

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Bakhdida

Restoration Process and Returnees

430 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

1813 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

6727

Damaged

  • 115

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 2412

    Houses Burnt

  • 4200

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 175

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 6835

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Bartella

Restoration Process and Returnees

7 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

35 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

1813

Damaged

  • 94

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 347

    Houses Burnt

  • 1372

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 27

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 1823

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Bashiqua

Restoration Process and Returnees

4 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

20 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

580

Damaged

  • 50

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 195

    Houses Burnt

  • 335

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 5

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 5

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Bahzani

Restoration Process and Returnees

6 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

30 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

310

Damaged

  • 60

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 70

    Houses Burnt

  • 180

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 4

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 4

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

Baqofa

Restoration Process and Returnees

34 Created with Sketch.

Families already returned

170 Created with Sketch.

Christians already returned

108

Damaged

  • 5

    Houses Totally Destroyed

  • 0

    Houses Burnt

  • 103

    Houses Partially Damaged

  • 0

    Number of houses actually being renovated

  • 82

    Number of houses registered to be renovated

The Persecuted and Refugee Christians

Protect the Christians of Iraq

Christian displaced families in northern Iraq depend on our help to survive while still hoping to return to their homes

Thousands of Christian families are refugees in their own country. They depend on the Church and the charity of other Catholics to survive.

What is the current situation of the Christian IDPs in Erbil?

What is the current situation of the Christian IDPs in Erbil?

 

ACN commissioned a Damage Assessment Survey to catalogue the level of destruction of almost 13,000 homes as well as the damage to schools, health clinics and religious buildings.

 

According to another survey carried out by ACN, 41% of displaced Christians in Erbil want to return to their native villages and 46% are considering it.

 

250 million dollars are needed for the rebuilding of almost 13,000 homes in the Nineveh Plains.

 

ACN is appealing to the international community for a «Marshall Plan» for Iraq so that thousands of displaced people can return to their homes.

 

The NRC (Nineveh Reconstruction Committee) was established on 27 March 2017 and it unites the three main Christian Churches in the area (Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Chaldean Catholic).

 

Its objective is to rebuild the homes belonging to the internally displaced Christians who fled their villages 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 Christians families.

Around 95,000 displaced Christians in the Erbil region are in need of food assistance

Well over half of them are women, children, and elderly.

Other than the aid provided through the Church organizations, the Christian IDPs continue to feel abandoned by governments (both within Iraq and abroad) and international aid organizations.

Since March 2016 ACN has been the only international organisation regularly supporting the Christian IDPs in northern Iraq

Since the beginning of the crisis in 2014, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been providing monthly food baskets and housing for Christian displaced families, as well as building schools for displaced children in northern Iraq

Thank you for the food

You can help these refugees. We need your support to provide monthly housing and food baskets for over 12.000 families.

A day in the life of a displaced child in Iraq

This is Maryam's story

Back To The Roots

Helping Christians return to their homes

www.nrciraq.org

Without outside help, Christianity is likely to disappear from Iraq

If we now miss the opportunity to help the Iraqi Christians, these families might well decide to leave Iraq forever. That would be an enormous tragedy.

Until 2014 there had been an unbroken Christian presence in Nineveh stretching back almost to the beginning of Christianity

Claim of Christian Genocide

This is a historic and unrepeatable occasion for the future of Christianity in Iraq

Christians face many difficulties on their return home

Christians are of vital importance – historically, politically and culturally. To help them return home, ACN has promoted the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC).

Back to the roots: can the Christians return to Nineveh?

Back to the roots: can the Christians return to Nineveh?

 

ACN commissioned a Damage Assessment Survey to catalogue the level of destruction of almost 13,000 homes as well as the damage to schools, health clinics and religious buildings.

 

According to another survey carried out by ACN, 41% of displaced Christians in Erbil want to return to their native villages and 46% are considering it.

 

250 million dollars are needed for the rebuilding of almost 13,000 homes in the Nineveh Plains.

 

ACN is appealing to the international community for a «Marshall Plan» for Iraq so that thousands of displaced people can return to their homes.

 

The NRC (Nineveh Reconstruction Committee) was established on 27 March 2017 and it unites the three main Christian Churches in the area (Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic and Chaldean Catholic).

 

Its objective is to rebuild the homes belonging to the internally displaced Christians who fled their villages 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 Christians families.

“I was born in this land and I have lived here all my life. I do not want to leave this land, ever. My faith in Christ gives me the strength to live in this land”

Watch the testimony of a farmer from Qaraqosh

“Christ is our tower of strength that gives us hope. We must persevere, this is our soil and our heritage. I am happy that we have an organisation like ACN at our side.”

Yohanna Petros Mouche, Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mossul

“Our God protected us from ISIS… I would like to return back because it is our place, our houses, our church, our home”

Watch young Rahma Jacob’s testimony from Erbil

Help us save Christianity in Iraq

With your help, the dream of thousands of Iraqi Christians of returning home can come true

1 1
Christian Refugees

Victims of genocide, forced to leave their homes to flee ISIS’ terror, around 100,000 Christians live as internally displaced people in Iraq.

Help these Christians return to their homes and rebuild their houses, churches and villages.

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