By Murcadha O'Flaherty and John Newton
ARCHBISHOP Bashar Warda of Erbil has unveiled plans to provide a future for Iraq’s displaced Christians – despite fresh reports showing the extent of the destruction of their homes in the Nineveh Plains.
Archbishop Warda said the Churches aim to rebuild “so that the IDPs are able to return to the villages of their forefathers with hope and security”. The Chaldean archbishop stressed that reconstruction could not begin until Mosul is liberated and villages are cleared of bombs and booby traps. Archbishop Warda described the extent of the devastation. He said: “However the desecration and destruction in the newly liberated villages was so personal in its hatred and anger, that it dealt further deep and destabilising blows to the IDPs when witnessing their destroyed homes, livelihoods and communities.”
Aid to the Church in Need’s Middle East project head Fr Andrzej Halemba, who carried out a survey of the villages in the Nineveh Plains at the end of 2016, revealed that growing numbers of displaced Christians are wanting to return. He said: “The conclusions of this first ACN survey showed us that not more than one percent of people that wanted to go back. Now during my visit to Alqosh I was told that there are more as 50 percent of IDPs willing to return. And this number keeps increasing.”
The priest added that the charity would help with the rebuilding of the Christian villages that were destroyed by Daesh (ISIS). Fr Halemba said: “ACN will support, of course, the reconstruction. However, we have to work together with other charities, alone [it] is impossible to manage this.”
Archbishop Warda underlined the need to continue to support Christian families who fled to Ankawa and other parts of the Kurdish capital Erbil. He said: “[T]here is an urgent need for us to continue to exist here in Ankawa during a possible two to three year transition period, and we will need continued donor funds to achieve this.” Archbishop Warda added: “We do all this in an environment of conflict, recession, high unemployment… power cuts, landlords now seeking higher rents – all of this amidst political and religious uncertainty.”
ACN continues to assist the programme run by the bishops’ emergency committee, by supporting 13,200 IDP families at a monthly cost of more than a $400,000. The charity has supported urgent housing, food and pastoral care projects with more than $22.5 million since 2014.
Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Kazer, Erbil, Iraq © Aid to the Church in Need/ Jaco Klamer
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.
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