Prelate reclaims his Archdiocese of Mosul
"People will return from time to time to check on their houses, but at the moment one cannot permanently stay in Mosul."
that Mosul has been recaptured from ISIS, will Christians be able to return to
their homes there soon? It’s too soon to tell, according to Syriac-Catholic Archbishop
Petros Mouche of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. He spoke with
international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
did you experience the liberation of Mosul?
As a sign of hope for us Christians. ISIS was driven
off. I hope that the attitude of the people will change. The destruction in
Mosul occurred on an enormous scale. For us Syriac-Catholic Christians in Iraq,
liberation is of course a cause for great joy because the bulk my diocese is
comprised by Mosul and Qaraqosh and environs. Today, Mosul is completely
destroyed. Officially, all parts of the city have been liberated, even though
there are still militants hiding in a number of places. But they will soon be found
needs to be rebuilt. When will the Christians be able to return to Mosul?
Perhaps in a few years. People will return from time
to time to check on their houses, but at the moment one cannot permanently stay
in Mosul. However, many people can return to the Nineveh Plains. A good number of families have already arrived
there. Some have found work or started restaurants, shops and businesses. It
takes a lot of courage to start from scratch again!
from military measures, how can Islamic fundamentalism be combated?
That is exactly what makes it so difficult: you have
to be able to affect a change in attitude. In view of the peculiar ideology of
these jihadist groups, one has to understand that war is not a solution. We
have to be able to live together. We have always lived together and this never
was a problem. These recent events have given rise to great hope: that life
will begin all over again and that the people will learn how to live together.
We are all sick of war. Wars have been fought in Iraq off and on since 1958. We
have to learn how to live in peace.
is your message to donors in the West?
I would of course like to express my heartfelt thanks
because their presence is always felt among us and in our diaspora. With their
support, we will be able to rebuild our houses. It is a great mercy that we can
count on their help. After all, the Syriac-Catholic Christians were the
hardest-hit group. They represent 60 percent of those who fled the Nineveh
Plains in the summer of 2014, when ISIS invaded the region. But there will
always be help.
challenges facing Christians on the Nineveh Plains are enormous: Currently
there are still 14,000 families who have fled from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains
living in Erbil (approximately 90,000 people); nearly 13,000 homes have to be repaired
or rebuilt; there are security concerns in the villages; there is Kurdish-Iraqi
political manoeuvring on the ground; there are massive infrastructure concerns
(water, electricity, roads, schools and clinics; and, most urgently, the IDPs
in Erbil will continue to need food aid as well as help paying the rent, pending
their hoped-for eventual return to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.
599 families have returned to the Nineveh Plains and 342 properties are being
renovated, in part through funding by ACN. Since the crisis began, ACN has
provided ongoing support to the Christian refugees in northern Iraq. To date,
close to $35M has been donated for emergency aid, including food, education,
housing, pastoral help and reconstruction.
Video: Iraqi Christians long to return to their roots on the Nineveh Plains
Archbishop Mouche; ACN photo