By Murcadha O Flaherty and Mónica Zorita
Father Luis Montes, Latin Episcopal Vicar for Kurdistan, told the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “Approximately 60 percent of the homes on the Nineveh Plains were burned down. The terrorists not only seized all of their belongings. They riddled the region with land mines.”
He said that members of Daesh (ISIS) had also “put bombs in with children’s toys” that would have exploded when people returned to their homes. Father Montes added: “It is true that some people were able to return to their houses. However, they were only able to determine that they still exist. Because it is impossible to live there.” He said: “The mines first need to be cleared out of the entire region. Only then can the villages be restored, and [then] from the ground up. Everything still needs to be done, the people have nothing left. Despite everything, Iraqis have lost neither their smiles nor their hope.”
(An Iraqi Christian with a decapitated statue of the Sacred Heart in the Mar Addai Church, Karemlash, northern Iraq, burnt and looted by IS forces © Aid to the Church in Need)
ACN’s project partner, Fr Montes added: “When we received the news that Daesh was retreating, a spontaneous celebration broke out in the refugee camps. The people went out into the streets to dance and sing, as though they did not have any other problems in their lives.” He added: “They have not lost the hope of being able to return to their homes.”
Despite the challenges, Fr Montes said the Iraqi Christians lived “not only in peace, but also with joy. To talk about forgiveness with them is easy because they forgive without bearing a grudge. They are what gives us strength.”
He thanked ACN's benefactors for their generosity, adding that the refugees “know that Christians from other countries have kept them alive. They always pray for their benefactors.” The priest asked for continued support this winter, stating that the pressing need for refugees in Erbil is for “blankets and more blankets” as the average temperature is -3°C.
ACN continues to respond to urgent requests for aid from the Church in Iraq so that displaced suffering Christians can remain in Erbil until it is safe for them to return to practice their Catholic faith in their own villages and towns in the Nineveh Plains. This month, the charity has approved a further urgent aid payment of more than $650,000 at this difficult time to help thousands of displaced Christians and refugees in the Archdiocese of Erbil to ensure the Christian presence in northern Iraq.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: email@example.com or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.
On Line donations can be made at www.aidtochurch.org