Catholic groups help to return Christians to Nineveh Plain28 June 2017 | by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
IS forces have been driven out of the Nineveh Plain and many refugees would like to return to their villages
Staunchly supported by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, five Austrian church aid organisations have pooled resources in order to help rebuild the village of Baqofa north of Mosul, in the hope that others will follow their example and encourage Christians to return to the Nineveh Plain, northern Iraq.
Roughly 100,000 Christians and members of other religious minorities were driven from their homes in the Nineveh Plain by Islamic State (IS) extremists in the summer of 2014. Most fled to the Kurdistan Region and its capital Erbil.
IS forces have now been driven out of the Nineveh Plain and many of the refugees would like to return to their villages but they need help as their homes have been burnt down, looted or damaged and there is no water or electricity supply.
When Cardinal Schönborn visited Erbil in March last year he met numerous refugees. In a declaration published on 26 June this year in Vienna, Cardinal Schönborn said he could remember how full of hope those refugees had been that one day they would be able to return. Now that that seemed possible it was obvious that they would need help.
“However hard they try, they will not be able to manage on their own. They will have to restore their bombed and looted homes and build up a completely new infrastructure. But with our help they will succeed. These Christians from the Orient are preserving Early Christianity’s heritage, which is also our heritage. Let us give them this opportunity with our help”, the cardinal said.
Thirty of the 100 families who lived in Baqofa before they were driven out by the IS have returned and more are expected to do so. In the medium term, it’s hoped that around half the original population could come back to the region. A poll conducted in March this year showed that 41 per cent of the Christian families who were driven out definitely wanted to return to their homes in the Nineveh Plain.
PICTURE: Families are rebuilding their destroyed homes in the Nineveh Plain, northern Iraq
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