01/31/2017, 18.39
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The return of the first Chaldean family to the Nineveh Plain is a sign of hope for Patriarch Sako

by Joseph Mahmoud

The Primate of the Chaldean Church celebrated the return of the first Christian family to one of the towns seized by the Islamic State. The goal is to enable many more families in displaced people’s camps to go home. Peace and security are needed to bring life to coexistence and unity in the area.

Erbil (AsiaNews) – Heeding the many recent calls by the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako, the first Iraqi Christian family went home yesterday to the town of Teleskuf, in the Nineveh Plain.

This is an historic event for it marks the return of Christians in one of the many towns in the Nineveh Plain, northern Iraq, seized by the Islamic State (IS) in the summer of 2014.

This dark period was marked by death, destruction of churches and homes, and hundreds of thousands of refugees, a trend that has been reversed only recently with the beginning of the offensive by the Iraqi army and Kurdish militias.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the Chaldean primate expressed "joy" and "satisfaction" at the turn of events. Mar Sako hopes that this family will be the first of many to leave finally camps in Erbil and Iraqi Kurdistan, and go back home.

The patriarch explained that the first family to come back to Teleskuf is that of Naoiq Quliaqus Atto, his wife, three children, and brother. The town saw a Jihadi attack last May after it was liberated.

"They returned home after spending two and a half years as displaced people in a centre in Dohuk,” Mar Sako said. “The local priest was there to welcome them – Fr Salar Bodagh who heads the reconstruction committee. This is a real sign of hope for many more."

After serious and systematic abuses by the Islamic State, east Mosul and villages in the Nineveh Plain have begun a slow process of recovery.

In order to allow displaced people to return, homes must rebuilt and the area cleared of all the mines Jihadis left before fleeing.

Because of this, the patriarch has made repeated appeals to the authorities and international leaders to get reconstruction underway based on the principle of unity and pluralism for the region’s various religious and ethnic groups. He hopes that Mosul and Nineveh can be in the future a true model for coexistence and religious freedom.

Recently, the Chaldean Patriarchate listed the towns in the Nineveh plain freed by the Iraqi army – Qaraqosh, Karamleis, Bartella, Tilkeif – and Kurdish Peshmerga – Teleskuf, Batnaya, Baqofa.

According to a 1987 census, Iraq had 1.264 million Christians; now they are less than half a million.

Mosul and the Nineveh Plain was home to about 130,000 Christians before the rise of the Islamic State. Now there are only 90,000 left as the other 40,000 fled persecution. 

For Mar Sako – who yesterday described the choice of US president Donald Trump to close the door to seven countries in the region as a ploy with a "preferential path" for Christians – it is essential to bring life in the region back to normal.

This can be done by ensuring water supplies, fixing roads, rebuilding hospitals, schools and places of worship, as well as helping families rebuild their home.

It is equally crucial to guarantee security to all those working to rebuild the region.

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