THANKS TO A DONATION of $230,000 from Pope Francis—part of the proceeds from the auction of the Lamborghini that was given to him last year—Aid to the Church in Need will be able to fund two new projects to benefit Iraqi Christian families and other minorities who have returned to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.
The papal gift will make possible the reconstruction of two buildings damaged by war belonging to the Syriac Catholic Church. They are the kindergarten of Our Lady and the multipurpose center of the parish of Our Lady. Both buildings are in the village of Bashiqa, which is just 18 miles from Mosul. The village was badly damaged during the fighting of recent years but the Christian community has returned—in large numbers. By now, 405 of the 580 homes that were destroyed in Bashiqa have already been rebuilt and about half of the Christians, or 1,585 people, have returned.
The two projects funded with the money from the Lamborghini will also benefit the other minorities in the town, since the multipurpose center, which can accommodate more than 1,000 people, will be used for weddings and the religious feasts of all the various different communities. It will be the largest such center in the area and will be available for use by more than 30,000 people of all different faiths and ethnic groups.
Just a little over two years since the liberation of the villages of the Nineveh Plains, the number of Christians who have been able to return to their homes has exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. As of last January, at least 9108 families had returned to their villages, or almost 46% of the 19,832 families living there in 2014 prior to the invasion of ISIS. The resettlement was made possible above all by the immense work of reconstruction, to which ACN has greatly contributed. So far, that has 41% of the 14,035 homes destroyed or damaged by ISIS have been repaired or rebuilt.
Back in 2016, Pope Francis gave $115,000 in support of the “Saint Joseph Charity Clinic” in Erbil, Kurdistan—where the Christians from the Nineveh Plains had fled. The facility provides free medical assistance.
This most recent gift by the Holy Father will be a further help to local Christians, enabling them to live their own faith and offer a future in Iraq to their children. The papal gesture sends a powerful message: it is an invitation to peaceful coexistence of the different religions in a region where Islamist fundamentalism has done grave damage to interreligious relations.
Since 2014, ACN has given more than $40M for the support of Iraqi Christians.
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