People fleeing Mosul following the attacks by ISIS militants are to receive emergency help from Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, amid growing signs that the country is lurching towards civil war.
The grant of €100,000 will provide food and shelter for many of the 3,000 Christians who poured into the mainly Christian villages in the Nineveh Plains outside Mosul.
They fled in the wake of the city’s capture by Wahhabi militants the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
The news comes as the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians was told by Auxiliary Chaldean (Catholic) Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna of Baghdad that civil war would spell “the end…, especially for us Christians."
Speaking Wednesday from the Iraqi capital, Bishop Sirop said: “We fear a civil war.
“If the various different opposing internal parties do not succeed in finding an agreement, then we must expect the worst.
“Another war would mean the end, especially for us Christians.”
Echoing concerns about international military intervention made on Monday by Latin-rite Catholic Archbishop Jean Sleiman of Baghdad, Bishop Sirop called for diplomatic pressure – especially from the USA – to reach an accord between the leaders of Iraq, Sunni and Shi‘a in particular.
He said: “More than a week has passed since the invasion of Mosul by… ISIS and still there is no common political plan.
“Only an Iraq based on consent and reconciliation within can react to external dangers. Shi‘as and Sunnis have to understand that nothing will be resolved by violence.”
The bishop said that the present crisis in Iraq is a direct consequence of the war of 2003 and of the inefficiency of the new democratic system which, he added: “cannot function if there is no true reconciliation."
Describing an upsurge of people requesting Baptismal certificates to enable them to leave the capital, the bishop said the young in particular were anxious to flee.
In response to the exodus taking place in the Mosul area, Chaldean (Catholic) Archbishop Amel Nona of Mosul is co-ordinating ACN’s emergency relief project.
The archbishop fled the city 10 days ago for the nearby Christian village of Tal Kayf, and began mounting a relief operation amid reports that 500,000 people were on the move.
Speaking to ACN, he explained that schools, church halls and abandoned houses had been opened up to receive displaced people, who left everything behind in Mosul.
The archbishop said that, although some Christians had returned to Mosul since last week’s ISIS invasion, most were too afraid to go back.
ISIS’s attack on Mosul began two weeks ago and, in its wake, half the population fled, including the city’s last remaining Christians, who as recently as 2003 numbered 35,000.
Archbishop Nona added that it was highly “uncertain whether all of the families will be able to return to Mosul."
ACN’s Projects Director Regina Lynch said: “We are very close to this Church. This never-ending suffering is like an open wound for us.
“More than ever, the Christians of Iraq need to know that the Christians in the rest of the world are not leaving them alone, but are praying for them and are also supporting them as much as they can.”
The charity’s help for displaced Iraqis comes on top of ACN’s ongoing emergency aid for Christians and others fleeing violence and persecution in neighbouring Syria, with important help also despatched to Lebanon and Jordan, where millions of refugees have gone.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries.www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS);www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)