Christian villages need $200 million (about 188 million euros) to facilitate their reconstruction in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain, according to the Pontifical Foundation ‘Aid to the Church in Need’. More than 12,000 houses have been vandalized by the cutthroats of ISIS in twelve Christian villages, including Qaraqosh, Batnaya, Bartella in the Nineveh Plain, where 669 of them have been set on fire and completely destroyed.
Almost half of Christian families who escaped ISIS soldiers and fled to Erbil, capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan, want to go back to their homeland and consider returning home, according to a poll ran by ‘Aid to the Church in Need’. Out of 1,500 Christian families they interviewed, 41% of them want to go back while 46% said that they are seriously considering their return. In a previous poll in November 2016, only 3% of Christians interviewed said they wanted to return to their abandoned villages once ISIS is defeated.
The return of Christians to their homeland is a crucial problem. Christianity risks extinction in Iraq and the real danger is the de-Christianisation of the region, the end-goal ISIS is striving for. In a step forward towards protection and resolution, the European Parliament and the Council of Europe recently recognized the systematic mass murder of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East as ‘genocide.’
And another sign of hope also comes from the EU, which “has committed itself to provide efficient complex aid, including financial one, on the road towards reconstruction of Iraq for its people, living in safe, just and democratic conditions” said Jan Figel, EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom.
Trying to show strength and unity, ten Iraqi Christian-Assyrian parties met in Erbil at the end of March, asking the International Community for aid to create and recognize their region as an autonomous Christian province of the Nineveh Plain.
“We call EU High representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini, the UN Security Council and the UN Mission to Iraq to recognize and to monitor the creation of an Autonomous Province of the Nineveh Plain to give to Iraqi Christians the possibility of their self-determination and to control their future,” said Kaldo Ramzi foreign policy adviser of the Christian-Assyrian Democratic party to The European Post.
The ball is now in Europe’s camp, which has the potential to successfully help the minorities in Iraq, according to Jan Figel. He was the first EU authority to visit Iraq in February this year, after years of isolation, where he met religious leaders and discussed the situation facing Iraq’s minorities. “It’s Europe’s responsibility to help religious and ethnics minorities also because in Iraq there is a lot of anti-Americanism but there is not anti-Europeanism and Europe is seen as a credible partner,” Figel said in an interview with The European Post.
“Peaceful and united Europe was built after unprecedented bloodshed and on ruins of World War II through reconciliation, new relations based on justice and reconstruction including Marshall Plan. This is the road for Iraq and its people as well,” according to Figel.
(in the cover picture: a house totally destroyed and burnt in the Christian Village in Qaraqosh, Iraq; photo credit: Marco Gombacci – The European Post)