04/12/2017, 11.17
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Nineveh, a house for every parish: Iraq's appeal for Easter "reconstruction"

Fr Paul Thabit speaks of the Palm Sunday celebrations in Karamles. Even in Qaraqosh hundreds of faithful attend the Mass. The hope is to "organize other moments of prayer" in order to "keep the community alive." Sorrow for Christian victims in Egypt. An appeal to the parishes worldwide: Support the reconstruction of a house on the ancient plain.


Erbil (AsiaNews) - The hope is that Easter marks a "resurrection" for the Christian community on the ancient Nineveh Plain so it can be "reborn" to new life "from the ground up: rebuilding homes devastated by more than two years of jihadist occupation”, Fr. Paul Thabit Mekko tells AsiaNews.  The 41 year-old Chaldean priest from Mosul led the Palm Sunday procession and mass (click here and here for videos) in Karamles, posted worldwide on his Facebook page. "The refugees - he says - are pressing to be able to go home, they feel like they are walking on hot coals. We urge all parishes in the West and in the world, to each support the reconstruction of a house on the plain. "

"Every community through a collection, can do a lot to restore vitality to the town Karamles and other realities of the plain - he adds – we are appealing to everyone." According to reports from the Chaldean priest, there are three different categories of damaged housing: broken, burned, completely destroyed. Rough estimates are that the first category would need about 7 thousand euro to be rendered habitable; the second category would need up to 30 thousand euro; the last would need to be rebuilt from scratch and the estimate is 70 thousand euro.

Fr. Paul is responsible for the "in Erbil’s Eyes" refugee camp on the outskirts of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where hundreds of thousands of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis have found shelter following the rise of the Islamic State (IS). It houses 140 families, about 700 people in all, with 46 mini-apartments and an area for the collection and distribution of aid. There is also a nursery, a kindergarten and a secondary school.

Over the weekend, for the first time in three years, the Christian community was able to celebrate Mass on Palm Sunday in the church of Mar Addai, in Karamles, one of the towns in the Nineveh plain devastated by IS. The priest says it was a “great community celebration”, which was attended by "at least 500 people". "The first – he is keen to stress - after the liberation" from jihadist militias "and it was a huge event for all of us."

Besides Karamles, several hundred Christians also came together in the Tahira al-Kubra church in Qaraqosh for mass. This town, in particular, with its 50 thousand inhabitants has long been the most important Christian center in the whole of Iraq. Just as in Karamles, here too the faithful led the traditional procession of Palm Sunday, followed by a Mass commemorating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Members of the " Nineveh Plain Security Unit " (Npu) have guaranteed the safety and security of the faithful.

For Holy Week, Fr. Paul says the idea is "to organize other moments of prayer".  However, the long-term goal is an initiative of "awareness of parishes around the world, to 'adopt' a village house and contribute to its reconstruction." The homes are largely impassable and a return of refugees is still far.

In Qaraqosh, as in the same Karamles, the soul of the faithful is "split" between the joy of a feast lived in the church of the past and the sadness for a return home that is still far off. "These are signs - says the priest - that testify to a living community, working for the return to normality. The procession, the songs, the hymns are recited once a year – he adds – and were a beautiful moment. At the end of the Mass we celebrated a small rite of purification of the place of worship. The spring air, mild climate have made the celebration even more joyful. Many families took advantage of the good weather for a picnic on the grass, on the hill where the Saint Barbara shrine rises"(click here for the video).

Now the hope is to celebrate one of the functions of Holy Week in the church of Mar Addai, "although nothing has yet been decided" says Fr. Paul. "We could opt for a mass and a small party, in the context of a spontaneous initiative , smaller than the Palm Sunday. The goal is to keep the community alive. A small group may hold vigil overnight and follow it live on social media".

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