MARKING the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8, 2017, the Christian community of Telleskuf, a Christian town on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, gathered for the re-consecration of the first church after the expulsion of ISIS from the region: the Chaldean Catholic church of St. George.
For Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, Kurdistan, the festive occasion was a symbol of hope and victory. “It is a message of hope and victory,” he said, adding: “ISIS wanted to eliminate the Christian presence here—but ISIS is gone and the Christians of Telleskuf are back.”
St. George’s was severely damaged, ransacked and desecrated under the ISIS occupation of Telleskus. Costly repairs were funded by the government of Hungary as well as by our organization. Archbishop Warda told us: “The opening of the church of St. George in Telleskuf will be a powerful incentive to the other Christian towns and villages.”
The archbishop said: “I am moved by the fact that the church of St. George has not only been reopened, but that it has become more beautiful and glorious than before. That is the way God’s Providence work.”
With funding from various sources, the Chaldean patriarchate has also been able to invest in the rebuilding of the village of Telleskuf, which was home to some 1,500 Chaldean families before the invasion by ISIS in summer 2014. Archbishop Warda reported that “two-thirds of the population has already returned, and so it was necessary to send out a clear signal that the Church too would be resuming her normal activities.”
Aid to the Church in Need helped with a contribution of $120,000 for the rebuilding of the church of St. George. We are aiming to support the repair and renovation of two other churches on the Nineveh Plains, a Syriac-Catholic church as well as a Syriac-Orthodox church.
Archbishop Warda expressed his gratitude to our organization and its donors: “A huge thank you to all who have made it possible for us to celebrate the ‘victory of our return.’ ISIS thought they could eliminate us, and yet it is ISIS that has disappeared and we have returned to Telleskuf. The reopening of this church will remain a powerful symbol to all the other villages and reinforces us in our determination to rebuild them. Thanks to you, we can once more praise God here and the Christian presence can be preserved in this place.”
As of early December, the total number of Christian families who have returned to the Nineveh Plains has grown to 6330, which represents a third of all those families who were forced to flee in 2014 when their communities were overrun by ISIS. During the month of November, 1,147 families returned to their villages, more than half (771 families) moved back to Qaraqosh. Among the nine Christian towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains, Telleskuf has the highest percentage (67%) of returnees.
By ACN Staff