ISIS has been driven out, but unfortunately, this has not led to immediate relief for Iraq’s Christians. Almost all of the Orthodox Christians in Iraq were displaced during the period of war and strife that began early in the 21st century. Even now, as Fr. Thabet says here, “Many Christians had lost hope of returning.”
Fr. Thabet also says, “We need to stage a global intervention that puts pressure on the Iraqi government to comply with all decisions issued by the United Nations and its constituencies.” The Order once again calls upon the international human rights community to initiate decisive action to alleviate the plight of the Christians of Iraq, and persecuted Christians everywhere.
Bartella was for centuries the home of a Christian community that dated back to apostolic times. Please continue to pray for the Christians of Iraq, and that the Shabak, on top of every other group that has targeted the Christians, will not succeed in bringing about the extinction of Christianity in the area.
“In Iraq, Christians return home—also for the sake of the children of the diaspora,” Aid to the Church in Need, February 21, 2019:
Chaldean Father Thabet Habib Youssef, pastor of the Church of St. Adday in the Christian town of Karamles, on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, helps oversee the reconstruction and repair of Christian homes and Church properties in Karamles. He spoke with Aid in the Church in Need about the prospects for Christians who have returned home to the Nineveh Plains after being forced into exile in Kurdistan by the invasion of ISIS in the summer of 2014.
“In the past, we have been subjected to many attacks and invasions. But each time, we have returned as faithful and authentic believers; we have reaffirmed our roots. The Christian presence in Iraq can continue, though things won’t be as they were before 2014.
“The Christian discourse has always focused more on national identity than on religious identity. National identity is the common link that makes conversation and coexistence—the acceptance of the other—possible. Our mission as clerics—to deepen faith among believers—does not prevent us from speaking directly to non-Christians about issues of national importance, on issues that affect all Iraqis.
“We have repeatedly asked for legislation that would ensure the safety and privacy of Christians. To this day, we work around older laws that do not protect endangered areas. Demographic changes are a threat to Christians in the Nineveh Plains, and the Iraqi government will remain deficient if the problem is not resolved by firm and stable laws.
“We need to stage a global intervention that puts pressure on the Iraqi government to comply with all decisions issued by the United Nations and its constituencies.
“Many Christians had lost hope of returning. Today, 330 families have returned to Karamles, and so far we have repaired 382 out of 754 damaged Christian homes in the town. We have restored the Sanctuary of St. Barbara and the Church of St. Adday, which had been partly burned, and also repaired the Church of the Virgin Mary. We perform as many basic services as we can. We’ve responded to water shortages and provided support for farmers on land destroyed by military activity….