Iraqi Christian community still needing help 10 years after Mosul invasion

On the 10th anniversary of Daesh (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 Catholic charity 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 Daesh seized the region. 

The Islamist extremist group captured Mosul and the villages to the north and east of the city between 4th and 10th June 2014, prompting a mass exodus of Christians, Yazidis and others. 

The occupation of Mosul left the Christian towns and villages of the Nineveh Plains vulnerable to a new advance – which occurred on 6th August 2014 – forcing the entire Christian population to flee to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. 

Archbishop Warda told Amy Balog of ACN that a total of 13,200 Christian families had fled to his archdiocese in Kurdistan. 

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. He added: “I ask my people just to be patient and persevere.” 

Archbishop Warda said that many Christians have either left or planning to leave the country because of the ongoing economic hardship, stressing that young people “ask for jobs, not just to receive donations”. 

He 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”. 

The archbishop added that he “would love to see” the UK government and other world leaders remind Iraqi politicians that they “care about the minorities – Christians, Yazidis and the rest”. 

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.

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