Chaldean Priest: April 24, "symbolic" date of the reconstruction of the Nineveh plain

Fr. Paul confirms the beginning of the reconstruction of homes in Qaraqosh, Bartella, Karamles. It is "important" to hurry to prevent the hemorrhaging of other Christian families from the region. A fund is made available by the Chaldean Church, but more funding is needed. Displaced people from plain employed in reconstruction.

Erbil (AsiaNews) - April 24 is the "symbolic date" marking the beginning of reconstruction work on houses and churches of the villages and towns of Nineveh, devastated by Islamic State militants in recent years (IS ), says Fr Paul Thabit Mekko. The 41-year-old Chaldean priest in Mosul tells AsiaNews that it is "important" to start work and to "quickly" accomplish them to prevent the hemorrhaging of other Christian families from the region.

According to a first assessment confirmed by the priest,  "over 12,000 houses" were destroyed or damaged to varying degrees; we will need "at least $ 200 million," he adds, though the figure could increase in the future.

"We have the documents - says Fr. Paul - that attest to the damage and the need for reconstruction. There is data about the devastation that occurred in each village. " In each location, he continues, "there is an office for reconstruction and every village receives funds. The money received is distributed as a percentage according to the needs. "

Fr. Paul is responsible for the refugee camp "Eyes of Erbil", on the outskirts of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where hundreds of thousands of Christians (along with Muslims and Yazidis) in time have found shelter following the rise of the IS. There still 140 families, about 700 people in all, with 46 mini-apartments in the camp and an area for the collection and distribution of aid, a nursery for toddlers as well as a kindergarten and a secondary school. Many of these refugees are from Karamles, where Palm Sunday he celebrated the first mass in the church devastated by the Daesh jihadists [Arabic acronym for IS].

Even today in Erbil and Iraqi Kurdistan there are thousands of displaced families, up to 14,000 (90,000 people) according to some sources. Most of these families, about 4/5 are dependent on aids for daily survival, which is why the reconstruction work and the return of internally displaced people is even more urgent.

On the occasion of Holy Week, Fr. Paul himself appealed to parishes and faithful throughout the world, for each Christian community "to adopt" the reconstruction of a dwelling on the Nineveh Plain. "In May, we are planning on progress reports - says the Chaldean priest - with the funds currently available."


April 24, Saint George's Day,  is presented as a "symbolic start date for reconstruction work". On that occasion, says Fr. Paul, "we will celebrate a Mass in the church of St. George at Karamles. At this time, thanks to the contribution of some volunteers, we are completing work on the place of worship, as was done previously for the church of Mar Addai, in order to celebrate the Eucharist together with the community. "

Reconstruction will cover some of the most important Christian centers of the plain: Qaraqosh, Bartella, Karamles, long in the hands of the Jihadist militias who have carried out  horrors and devastations. "We have also asked for help from the same displaced people," continues the priest, turning to bricklayers, plumbers, geometers, electricians. The work of each one will be essential for the rebirth of this land. " Additionally, by taking part in the reconstruction "the same displaced people will be entitled to a salary to support the needs of their families".

To date, the Chaldean patriarchate has made available a fund, to which will be added [Fr. Paul hopes] donations and contributions from foundations, bodies and associations participating in the reconstruction. "The refugees themselves will take part in the reconstruction," he adds, "and this is a double satisfaction. The plain is changing face after Isis, it will take time to rebuild but it needs to be done quickly. Much will depend on the money that will come, but time is tight. The beginning of the work is an important message for the Plain’s refugees, it is an invitation to remain to rebuild, when many people still think of escape, exodus, going abroad2.

"It is important to stay here - concludes Fr. Paul - as Christians and as an Iraqi community. We are the people who still speak the language of Jesus, if we go away everything will be erased. The area is almost completely secured, some land still needs demining, but the work is proceeding. We must continue ceaselessly and with renewed enthusiasm. "(DS)