“Please do not be a silent bystander to our drama. We call on you to support the Christians of Iraq… while there is still time.”
This was the urgent appeal underlying the joint Call for Action signed by the leaders of the three main Christian Churches in the Nineveh Plains region of Iraq and addressed to national governments and other international agencies. This was reported January 14, 2019, by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
“There is still a lot to do” to facilitate the return of Christians “to their respective ancestral communities from which they were expelled during the ISIS invasion of 2014-17.” So runs the statement signed by the senior representatives of the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syrian Catholic Church, and the Syriac Orthodox Church, together with other members of the Niniveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC) which was jointly formed between them for this purpose.
The Call for Action gives the following details of the progress of its work since its creation in 2017: Out of the 13,904 houses registered as in need of renovation, fewer than half, 5,746 have now been renovated while a further 84 are currently undergoing renovation. Only 45.68% of the families who were forced to flee the Nineveh Plains region in 2014 – that is to say, 9,060 families – have so far returned.
What these religious leaders are calling upon the international community to help for is “not simply to give people back their homes, but rather a more integral project” which aims “also to restore their sense of human dignity”. They emphasize the essential need for coordinated financial aid, especially in the field of education, to address “the critical situation of trauma”, and “for the creation of economic stability by boosting small businesses through the development of micro-projects and loans” in order to prevent these communities falling into poverty and deciding to emigrate as a result. Equally necessary, they insist, are measures for the “legal protection of Christians and other minorities and their fundamental rights, especially of citizenship.”
The Church leaders also expressed their appreciation for the important role played by the NRC, a committee established with the support of ACN to jointly oversee the reconstruction programme and the allocation of the financial resources received. Thanks to the NRC, they say, the Christians “instead of being scattered and isolated” have managed to “regain their community life”. They also note that in this region, where “the voice and role of the local Church leaders is stronger than in other regions of Iraq” it is “very important that the various local Churches work closely together, united in diversity”, and add that this ecumenical cooperation has “inspired a great solidarity among the people”.