06/20/2018, 15.39
IRAQ – REFUGEES
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Uncertainty, fear and hope among Christians returning to Mosul

One hundred families went back to the eastern sector of the northern metropolis. A Chaldean priest talks about reconstruction. In addition to houses, social and economic life must be rebuilt. For Muslim leaders, there is no rebirth without Christians.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – After four years "there is still a climate of uncertainty" among the refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, because the reconstruction work "continues but slowly". In addition to the houses "we must guarantee a future through work," said Fr Paul Thabit Mekko who spoke to AsiaNews about the slow rebirth of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain a year after the military victory against the Islamic State (IS) group that had turned Iraq’s northern metropolis into one of its stronghold.

"The general situation of uncertainty in the country has been made worse by the stalemate over the formation of Iraq’s new government and the accusations of electoral fraud,” said the clergyman, “and this has further complicated the situation and generated fear."

After years of violence and terror by the Islamic State, life is getting back to normal in East Mosul, and it is easier now to move inside the city’s western neighbourhoods.

The rebirth of the northern metropolis is taking place thanks to the reopening of schools, factories and small businesses, as well as the opening of new commercial spaces, unthinkable under the "caliphate". This renaissance includes a literary café as a place of reading and exchanges.

In recent weeks, said Fr Paul, "at least 100 Christian families" have returned to the eastern sector of Mosul, on the left bank of the Tigris River, which suffered less from the Islamic State.

"A first group arrived, but we cannot talk about stabilisation. The goal is the reopening of the Chaldean Church of St Paul in the next weeks. It will be a significant moment for the whole community."

In the city, the situation of houses once inhabited by Christian families "is good". Few have been destroyed and the majority have been occupied by Muslims. Now we are trying to get them back. In the Nineveh Plain, the priest notes the reality is "different" because the "damages are much greater, many houses have been burnt," and it is essential "to accelerate the reconstruction work".

Those who commute to the city include university students from Karamles who, every day, make the journey from the small town in the Nineveh Plain to their university.

"The situation in the city is relatively stable,” explained the priest. “There is freedom of movement. This applies to both the eastern and western sectors, where the old city, the most affected, is located.”

"In the last few days I went to the area in person, to meet the families of some Muslim dignitaries and celebrate the end of Ramadan. With them we talked about Mosul’s rebirth, which cannot happen without the presence of Christians as moderate Islamic leaders themselves indicated."

Meanwhile, the Chaldean Church is renewing its mission to "protect, promote and integrate" those who lost everything, starting with their homes, to jihadist violence. Many of these families are still internally displaced or have emigrated abroad, in conditions of extreme precariousness and uncertainty.

"Pope Francis’s invitation in his Message for the 2018 World Day of Migrants and Refugees is comforting, whilst the World Refugee Day is celebrated today all over the world.”

At present, "Most refugees still live in Iraqi Kurdistan. One of the most serious problems is unemployment, the lack of a job, that casts a shadow over the future and the rebirth of the whole area.”

"Reconstruction, renewed activities are the key factors for the return of hundreds of thousands of exiles, especially those who fled abroad,” Fr Paul explained. “Four years after the Islamic State rose, and one year after their military defeat, the future is still uncertain for us.”

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