Christians in Iraq: Quo Vadis?

“IS tried to take the monastery. In August of 2014 we were convinced that they would succeed,” Archbishop Timotheos Moussa Al-Shamani, abbot of the Syriac Orthodox Mar Matti Monastery, founded in the 4th century and one of the oldest in the world. The monks fled, but quickly returned after they had got over the initial shock. Hundreds of Christian refugees lived with them for months – just a few kilometres in a direct line from their worst enemies. “IS never managed to take our monastery. God was with us.” The trenches dug by IS fighters at the foot of the mountain are still there. This is where the henchmen and the Peshmerga, the military forces of Iraqi Kurdistan, faced off for more than two years. The IS fighters frequently fired mortar shells at the monastery. When the weather was poor, they regularly tried to take the monastery, but were prevented from succeeding through bombing by the US-led coalition. Since late 2016, the villages and towns have been freed from IS, one after the other. The Nineveh plains have also been liberated. The monastery is no longer in danger. But how are the faithful doing?

 

Mons Timothaeus Mosa Alshamany
Archbishop Timotheos Moussa Al-Shamani

 

Archbishop Moussa’s expression darkens. “Before IS arrived in 2014, more than 5 000 Christian families lived in my diocese. Today, there are at most 2 300. The rest have all left the country.” Moussa suspects that this is part of a bigger plan to oust Christians from the Middle East. “It all started in 1975 in Lebanon and then continued in Iraq, Egypt, and Syria.” However, he deflects when asked to elaborate. In response to statements made last autumn by Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States, concerning US plans to send aid directly to persecuted minorities in Iraq instead of first going through the UN, Archbishop Moussa waves dismissively. “We don’t need words. I can’t even begin to tell you just how many western ambassadors and politicians I have already spoken with. What we Christians in Iraq need is action.”

 

Mons Timothaeus Mosa Alshamany
Archbishop Timotheos Moussa Al-Shamani

 

The man of God looks haggard as he talks about his meetings with those in power in the Iraqi provincial government and police. According to Moussa, he was received warmly and they listened attentively as he spoke of the concerns of his community. But nothing came of it except a cup of coffee. “Peace, safety, jobs: without them, no one wants to stay. I can’t hold it against any head of a family if he chooses to search for a better future for himself and his family in other countries. Although we don’t recommend emigration to anyone, we also don’t tell them not to go. It is a personal decision.” Moussa considers it a definite possibility that his Syriac Orthodox community will eventually disappear. “We once had a flourishing home in Tur Abdin in the southeastern part of what is today Turkey. All that is left there today are a few empty churches. That could happen to us here as well.” He is already aware of the next problem they will have to face. “Drive to Bartella and ask about the Shabak.”

The jeep takes us back down the winding road to the plains. Flocks of sheep graze on the dry land to the left and right of the road. This year, a severe drought has given them even less to eat than usual. We have to pass through a Kurdish checkpoint to enter the parts of Iraq controlled by the central government in Baghdad. We continue 20 or 30 kilometres through the ethnic mosaic of northern Iraq. This is where Turkmen, Christians, Sunni Arabs and Yazidis live. And the Shabak. This ethnic group was estimated to number up to 400 000 before 2014. Most of them lived on the Nineveh plains. The villages inhabited by mostly Shia Shabak are noticeably humbler and more dilapidated than those of such groups as the Christians. The Shabak also fell victim to IS hatred. The Islamic State holds Shia Muslims, the Rafida, “those who reject”, in even greater contempt than Christians. But, in contrast to Christians, Shia have powerful friends. Not only in Baghdad, which is dominated by Shia politicians. Ajatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, waves to the people from billboards. His reach extends all the way to here. The Iranian ambassador has already paid a visit. The message: “You can count on us.”

 

“The Shabak want our land,” Abuna Jakob tersely says
“The Shabak want our land,” Abuna Jakob tersely says

 

“The Shabak want our land,” Abuna Jakob tersely says. “That is the next problem.” The Syriac Orthodox village priest of Bartella is a nephew of Archbishop Moussa. IS was the problem in the past. “I was the last person to leave in August of 2014, and the first person to return.” The village cleric recalls how tears came to his eyes when he first heard the bells ring out again. Abuna Jakob leads us through his freshly renovated parish church. Everything gleams in radiant white and gold. Only the charred chapel in a side aisle is a reminder of the jihadists. “It was desecrated by IS. We are leaving it as a warning.” The village was liberated from IS in October of 2016. But now there is the problem of the Shabak. In 1980, there were only two Shabak families in the village, today their numbers exceed 20 per cent. And the trend is upward. At the root of this demographic microconflict is the high birth rate of the Shabak – and the fact that more Christians than ever are ready to sell their land for a cheap price. The Church is trying to keep its members from doing so. But those who have already used up all of their savings to flee, who are already living outside the country or who want to emigrate to Australia often have no other choice. The love for one’s country is something one has to be able to afford.

 

Chapel in St Mary’s church in Qaraqosh. The church has been damaged by ISIS. Now prayer has returned.
Chapel in St Mary’s church in Qaraqosh. The church has been damaged by ISIS. Now prayer has returned.

“I will never sell my land to the Shabak,” Ibrahim says resolutely. The 63-year-old farmer is dressed in the floor-length thawb, the traditional garment worn by men. There is not a trace of grey in the immaculate black of his impressive moustache and hair. He grows grain, chick peas and sunflowers on the land owned by his family. He has seven children – not one of whom has remained in Iraq. “They are in Turkey and in Europe. I keep telling them that they should return, but they don’t want to because there are no jobs here and no safety.” Ibrahim harbours no great illusions in this regard. “In twenty years, there may not be Christians left.” And yet, the exact opposite seems to be true at the moment. In every nook and corner, things are feverishly being built and hammered, the damage left behind by IS is being fixed. In the evenings, loud singing accompanies the Arab music played in the village restaurant, making it a struggle to hold a conversation; kebab and chicken sizzle on the grill, and young people get together, all in high spirits. Almost five thousand Christians have returned – and things have returned to the way they used to be.

 

Destroyed house in Quaraquosh
Destroyed house in Quaraquosh

 

All of this is being managed by the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC). The brains behind the reconstruction of the Christian region are headquartered in the neighbouring city of Baghdeda, which is located a few kilometres deeper into the Nineveh plains. The Ottomans called the city Qaraqosh, the Arabs say Al Hamdaniya, and in the Aramaic language of the Christians native to the area, it is Baghdeda. Before 2014, Baghdeda was the largest Christian city in Iraq. About 50 000 people lived there. The percentage of Christians: 97 per cent. Agriculture – grain and poultry farming – brought affluence to its inhabitants, primarily Syriac Catholic Christians. Traces of this are everywhere, even though the houses themselves are all the worse for wear now. We drive along bumpy roads to the main offices of the NRC. “Ahlan wa sahlan,” or, welcome, says Father Georges Jahola and waves us into his office. The Syriac Catholic priest shows us maps, tables and aerial photos of his city. “We are rebuilding our homeland. It is the only one we have. Christians live in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk. But this is the only region they can really call home. If we lose it, we will lose more than just land and houses: we will lose our identity.” The priest is assisted by a team of engineers and young people who help register the homeowners who come asking for support. “We have more than 7 000 houses in our city. We have divided them into three groups: slightly damaged, severely damaged and destroyed.” Not all of the houses were destroyed or damaged by IS. Many were damaged when the city was liberated from IS. Others became derelict after standing vacant for years. Almost all were looted by IS and the inhabitants of the surrounding Muslim villages. To cut down on costs and give people work, the homeowners have to roll up their sleeves as well. They also have to bear one third of the costs themselves, if this is possible. Funding is only approved for those who are actually living in their houses. “A lot of people have started coming back from Lebanon and Turkey again,” Father Jahola is pleased to report. “Our people were saying in the beginning: ‘first safety, then we’ll return.’ I answered them: ‘The more of you are back here, the better you can protect each other.’” However, because of the lack of safety and jobs, Father Jahola knows that the houses alone will not guarantee that enough Christians will remain in the long run. “But if it weren’t for the houses, there would already be no one left.”

 

Reconstruction is only possible because Christian organisations
Reconstruction is only possible because Christian organisations

 

Reconstruction is only possible because Christian organisations – with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) leading the way – are contributing millions in donations. The Iraqi state only exists here on the flag and on passports. “The government has no money and other priorities. No one shows their face here. We would be lost without the help of our fellow Christians in the West,” says Father Jahola expressing his gratitude. Aimery de Vérac is happy to hear that. The Frenchman works as a go-between for ACN and has therefore been living in Iraq for the last few years. “Helping the people makes me very happy. They love their homeland. We are committed to maximum transparency in our work. We can account for every dollar we spend.” According to the Frenchman, more than 8 700 families have in the meantime returned to the Nineveh plains and more than 4 300 homes have been made habitable again. Each time a home has been finished, ACN gives the owners an olive tree. The biblical plant is intended to be a symbol of hope and the future.

 

Syriac Catholic parish priest Father Georges Jahola in front of the bell tower ISIS destroyed.
Syriac Catholic parish priest Father Georges Jahola in front of the bell tower ISIS destroyed.

 

Rabah has also received a small tree. In her mid-fifties, Rabah has three children. She and her husband originally came from Mosul. They fled from there to Baghdeda in 2006, after their son and nephew were threatened by Islamists. The nephew was kidnapped, their son just barely got away. However, the Islamists arrived in Baghdeda with IS in 2014. The family fled once again. After years of living as refugees in the neighbouring state of Iraqi Kurdistan, the family has now been back in their house since July 2017. “Our car, our gold: we spent everything we had. If Baghdeda had not been liberated, I don’t know what would have happened to us,” Rabah says. Fortunately, their home sustained only minor damages. No traces of these remain. But the wounds are deep. “My husband and I will remain in Iraq, God willing. This is also what our children want. But they don’t have any work. And I am afraid that the same thing will happen to us again, that IS will return.”

 

Rabah with her Olive tree received by ACN
Rabah with her Olive tree received by ACN
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Que signifie pour vous cette visite ?

La visite du Pape nous remontera le moral, plus que toute autre chose. Tous les yeux de la planète seront dirigés vers Baghdeda. Le monde saura ainsi ce qui est arrivé à cette ville : les terribles destructions et la migration forcée. Ce serait également bien si nous recevions ensuite un peu plus d’aide et de soutien. Cette visite est très importante pour nous qui sommes ici, surtout après l’énorme migration forcée de tant des nôtres. Cette visite signifie que nous ne sommes pas seuls et qu’il y a des gens qui prient pour nous. Cela nous donnera de l’espoir, nous encouragera à rester dans notre pays et à ne pas le quitter.

Qu’aimeriez-vous dire au Saint-Père ?

Si j’ai l’occasion de le rencontrer, je voudrais le remercier pour sa visite qui nous rend très heureux, et pour ses prières. Je tiens également à le remercier pour toute l’aide qu’il nous a procurée ces derniers temps. Je n’oublie pas sa grande solidarité et le geste qu’il a fait en vendant aux enchères la Lamborghini qu’on lui avait donnée pour soutenir avec l’argent récolté la reconstruction de la plaine de Ninive. Je voudrais aussi qu’il continue à prier pour nous afin que la paix arrive en Irak.

Qu’aimeriez-vous lui montrer à Qaraqosh/Baghdeda ? Que devrait-il visiter ?

Je voudrais lui montrer l’église historique Al-Tahira et des photos de Baghdeda, je voudrais qu’il voie comment l’État Islamique l’a détruite et comment les gens d’ici ont eu le courage de la reconstruire.

¿Qué significa la visita para usted?
La visita del Papa levantará el ánimo y la moral, más que cualquier otra cosa. Todos los ojos del mundo se dirigirán a Baghdeda. Así, el mundo sabrá lo que le sucedió a esta ciudad. La terrible destrucción y la migración forzada. También sería bueno si luego recibimos más ayuda y apoyo. Esta visita es realmente importante para nosotros, los que estamos aquí, especialmente después de la enorme migración forzada de tantos de los nuestros. La visita significa que no estamos solos y hay quienes rezan por nosotros. Esto nos dará esperanza, nos animará a permanecer en nuestra tierra y no dejarla.

¿Qué le gustaría decirle al santo padre?
Si tengo la oportunidad de encontrarme con él: quiero agradecerle su visita, que nos hace muy felices, y su oración. También quiero darle las gracias por todo lo que nos ha ayudado durante el último periodo. No me olvido de su gran solidaridad y del gesto de subastar el Lamborghini para apoyar con ese dinero la reconstrucción de la llanura de Nínive. También quiero que siga orando por nosotros para que la paz llegue a Irak.

¿Qué le gustaría mostrarle en Baghdeda /Qaraqosh? ¿Qué debería visitar?
Quiero mostrarle la histórica iglesia Al-Tahira y fotos de Baghdeda, quiero que vea cómo fue destruida por ISIS y cómo la gente de aquí ha sido tan fuerte para reconstruirla nuevamente.

Was bedeutet der Besuch für Sie?
Der Besuch des Papstes wird die Stimmung und die Moral heben, mehr als alles andere. Alle Augen der Welt werden auf Baghdida gerichtet sein. Dann wird die Welt erfahren, was mit dieser Stadt passiert ist, die schreckliche Zerstörung und die erzwungene Migration. Es wäre auch gut, wenn wir anschließend mehr Hilfe und Unterstützung bekommen würden. Dieser Besuch ist wirklich wichtig für uns hier, besonders nach der großen Zwangsmigration so vieler unserer Leute. Der Besuch bedeutet, dass wir nicht allein sind, und dass es Menschen gibt, die für uns beten. Das wird uns Hoffnung geben, es wird uns ermutigen, in unserem Land zu bleiben und es nicht zu verlassen.

Was würden Sie dem Heiligen Vater gerne sagen?
Wenn ich die Gelegenheit habe, ihn zu treffen: Ich möchte ihm für seinen Besuch, der uns sehr glücklich macht, und für sein Gebet danken. Ich möchte mich auch bei ihm für alles bedanken, was uns in der letzten Zeit geholfen hat. Ich werde nie seine große Solidarität vergessen sowie die Geste, den Lamborghini zu versteigern (siehe Link zur Meldung), um mit diesem Geld den Wiederaufbau der Ninive-Ebene zu unterstützen. Ich möchte auch, dass er weiterhin für uns betet, damit im Irak Frieden einkehrt.

Was möchten Sie ihm in Baghdida /Karakosch zeigen? Was sollte er besuchen?
Ich möchte ihm die historische Al-Tahira-Kirche zeigen und Bilder von Baghdida, ich möchte, dass er sieht, wie alles von ISIS zerstört wurde und welcher Kraft die Menschen hier es wiederaufgebaut haben.

What does the Pope’s visit mean to you?
The papal visit will lift up our spirits and morale more than anything else. All the eyes of the world will be on Baghdeda. And in this way the world will know what happened to this city. The terrible destruction and the forcible ethnic cleansing. It will also be a good thing if afterwards we get more support and help. This visit is really important to us, to those of us who are living here, especially after the massive ethnic cleansing and expulsion of so many of us. His visit means that we are not alone and that there are people who are praying for us. This will give us fresh hope and encourage us to persevere, here on our own soil, and not leave it.

What would you like to say to the Holy Father?
If I get the opportunity to meet him, I would like to be able to thank him for his visit, which has made us very happy, and for his prayers. I would also like to thank him for all he has done to help us in recent times. I have not forgotten his great gesture of solidarity in auctioning the Lamborghini in order to use the money to help pay for the reconstruction of our homes on the Niniveh plains. I would also like to ask him to continue praying for us and for peace to return to Iraq.

What would you like to show him in Qaraqosh/ Baghdeda? Which places should he visit?
I would like to show him our historic Al-Tahira church, and some photos of Baghdeda. I’d like him to be able to see how it was destroyed by IS and how the people here have worked so hard recently to rebuild it once more.

Qu’est-ce que cette visite signifie pour vous ?

La visite du Pape est ce que nous désirions le plus ici. C’est une grande bénédiction. Nous avons un grand désir de le voir. Ce qui rajoute de l’importance à cette visite, c’est la situation de vulnérabilité que nous, chrétiens, subissons en Irak. Il y a plusieurs raisons à cette fragilité, toutes sont les séquelles de l’État Islamique. Toutes ces destructions ont grandement contribué à l’émigration des chrétiens. De nombreux problèmes pèsent sur nous. Mais par sa visite, le Pape nous donnera de l’espérance et de la confiance, il nous encouragera et réduira notre fardeau. Bien que la situation soit instable en Irak en ce qui concerne la sécurité, tout spécialement dans le domaine politique, on s’attend à ce qu’à l’arrivée du Pape, sa sécurité soit correctement assurée.

Qu’aimeriez-vous dire au Saint-Père ?

Je voudrais lui demander de me donner sa bénédiction, de bénir mon travail et le dévouement des prêtres d’ici, et de bénir le peuple par ses prières. Je voudrais lui demander d’aider tous ceux qui sont en danger dans ce pays, qu’ils soient chrétiens ou musulmans. Qu’il tente de mobiliser les pays du monde entier pour soutenir ce pays qui a besoin d’aide.

Qu’aimeriez-vous lui montrer à Qaraqosh/Baghdeda ? Que devrait-il visiter ?

J’aimerais qu’il visite l’église Al-Tahira, parce que c’est un symbole et un élément du patrimoine de Baghdeda. Cette église est la mère, le foyer et le patrimoine de chacun des habitants de Baghdeda. Nos ancêtres ont construit cette église, nous avons tous le sentiment d’en faire partie. Bien sûr, nous serions heureux qu’il visite de nombreux endroits, des églises, monastères et maisons traditionnelles, et qu’il rencontre également beaucoup de gens qui ont le désir de le voir.

¿Qué significa la visita para usted?
La visita del Papa es lo que más hemos deseado aquí. Es una gran bendición. Sentimos un gran anhelo de verlo. Lo que agrega importancia a esta visita son las condiciones tan vulnerables que sufrimos los cristianos en Irak. Hay varios motivos para esa fragilidad, todas las secuelas que ha dejado el ISIS, esa enorme destrucción ha llevado en gran medida a la emigración de cristianos. Muchos problemas pesan sobre nosotros. Pero cuando nos visite, nos dará esperanza, confianza y aliento y reducirá esta carga. Además del hecho de que la situación de seguridad en Irak, especialmente la política, es inestable, se espera que a la llegada del Papa se garantice su seguridad de manera correcta.

¿Qué le gustaría decirle al santo padre?
Querría pedirle que me dé su bendición, que bendiga mi servicio y la entrega de los sacerdotes aquí y que bendiga al pueblo a través de sus plegarias. Le pido que ayude a todos los que están en peligro en este país, ya sean cristianos o musulmanes. Que intente movilizar a los países del mundo para que apoyen a este país que necesita ayuda.

 ¿Qué le gustaría mostrarle en Baghdeda / Qaraqosh? ¿Qué debería visitar?
Me encantaría que visite la iglesia Al-Tahira, porque es símbolo y patrimonio de Baghdeda. Esta iglesia es madre, hogar y herencia de cada uno de los habitantes de Baghdeda. Nuestros antepasados ​​construyeron esta iglesia, todos nos sentimos parte de ella. Ciertamente, nos alegraría que visitara muchos lugares, iglesias, monasterios y casas tradicionales,  también que vea a muchas personas que anhelan verlo.

Was bedeutet der Besuch für Sie?
Der Besuch des Papstes ist das, was wir uns hier am meisten gewünscht haben. Es ist ein großer Segen. Wir spüren eine starke Sehnsucht, ihn zu sehen. Was diesen Besuch noch wichtiger macht, sind die äußerst prekären Bedingungen, unter denen wir Christen im Irak leiden. Es gibt mehrere Gründe für diese Zerbrechlichkeit. All die Folgen, die ISIS hinterlassen hat, diese enorme Zerstörung hat in großem Maße zur Auswanderung von Christen geführt. Viele Probleme lasten auf uns. Aber wenn er uns besucht, wird er uns Hoffnung, Zuversicht und Ermutigung geben und diese Last verringern. Auch wenn die Sicherheitslage im Irak, insbesondere die politische Situation, instabil ist, hoffen wir, dass bei der Ankunft des Papstes seine Sicherheit ausreichend gewährleistet ist.

 

Was würden Sie dem Heiligen Vater gerne sagen?
Ich möchte ihn bitten, mir seinen Segen zu geben, meinen Dienst und die Hingabe der Priester hier zu segnen und die Menschen durch seine Gebete zu segnen. Ich bitte ihn, all jenen zu helfen, die in diesem Land in Gefahr sind, ob sie nun Christen oder Muslime sind; und die Länder der Welt zu mobilisieren, um dieses Land, das Hilfe braucht, zu unterstützen.

Was möchten Sie ihm in Baghdida / Karakosch zeigen? Was sollte er besuchen?
Ich möchte, dass er die Al-Tahira-Kirche besucht, denn sie ist ein Symbol und Erbe von Baghdida. Diese Kirche ist die Mutter, die Heimat und das Vermächtnis eines jeden einzelnen Menschen in Baghdida. Unsere Vorfahren haben diese Kirche erbaut, wir alle fühlen uns als Teil von ihr. Sicherlich würden wir uns freuen, wenn er viele Orte, Kirchen, Klöster und traditionelle Häuser besuchen würde, und auch, wenn er viele Menschen treffen würde, die sich danach sehnen, ihn zu sehen.

What does the visit mean to you?
The papal visit is the thing we have longed for most of all here. It will be a great blessing. We have a great yearning to see him. What gives added importance to this visit is the so very vulnerable situation that we are suffering as Christians in Iraq. There are many reasons for this vulnerability, including the aftermath of what IS left behind, the enormous destruction which has led in such large measure to the emigration of the Christians. There are many problems weighing on us. But when he comes to visit us, he will give us new hope and confidence and some relief from this burden. In addition there is the fact that the security situation in Iraq, and especially the political situation, is so unstable, so we are hoping that when the Pope does arrive they will guarantee his security in the way that they should.

 

What would you like to say to the Holy Father?
I would like to ask him to give me his blessing, to bless my ministry and the hard work of all the priests here, and also to bless all the people through his prayers. I would ask him to help all those in danger in this country, whether they are Christians or Muslims. And that he might strive to encourage the countries of the world to support this nation, which is truly in need.

What would you like to show him in Qaraqosh/ Baghdeda? What places ought he to visit?
I would love him to visit the Al-Tahira church, because it is a symbol and a rich cultural legacy of Baghdeda. This church is the mother, the home and the inheritance of every one of the inhabitants of Baghdeda. Our forefathers built this church, and we all feel we are a part of it. Of course, we would be happy for him to visit many different places – churches, monasteries and traditional homes – and also for him to be able to meet all the many people who are longing to see him.

Que signifie pour vous cette visite ?

Elle a une valeur morale, et non pas économique. Cette question occupera l’opinion publique mondiale, et tout spécialement irakienne. J’ai l’impression d’y tenir une place importante.

 

Qu’aimeriez-vous dire au Saint-Père ?

Ce sera formidable de faire sa connaissance, et je voudrais lui dire : « Nous avons besoin d’une protection internationale parce que notre communauté chrétienne a subi une migration forcée ».

Qu’aimeriez-vous lui montrer à Qaraqosh/Baghdeda ? Que devrait-il visiter ?

J’aimerais lui montrer les églises et les maisons brûlées, afin qu’il voie les dégâts que l’État Islamique a laissés derrière lui dans cette ville. Et aussi notre Musée du patrimoine de Baghdeda pour lui présenter notre histoire et notre culture.

¿Qué significa la visita para usted?
La visita tiene un valor moral, no económico. Este tema ocupará la opinión pública en el mundo y especialmente en Irak. Siento que tengo un lugar importante en él.

 

¿Qué le gustaría decirle al santo padre?
Será genial conocerlo y querría decirle “necesitamos protección internacional, porque nuestra comunidad cristiana ha sufrido una migración forzada”.

¿Qué le gustaría mostrarle en Baghdeda /Qaraqosh? ¿Qué debería visitar?
Me gustaría mostrarle las iglesias y las casas quemadas, para que vea el daño que dejó ISIS en esta ciudad. Y también nuestro Museo del patrimonio de Baghdeda para presentarle nuestro historia y cultura.

Was bedeutet der Besuch für Sie?
Der Besuch hat einen moralischen Wert, keinen wirtschaftlichen. Er wird die öffentliche Meinung in der Welt und insbesondere im Irak beherrschen. Ich habe das Gefühl, dass ich einen wichtigen Anteil daran habe.

Was würden Sie dem Heiligen Vater gerne sagen?
Es wird großartig sein, ihn zu treffen, und ich möchte ihm sagen: „Wir brauchen internationalen Schutz, weil unsere christliche Gemeinschaft unter der erzwungenen Auswanderung gelitten hat“.

Was möchten Sie ihm in Baghdida /Karakosch zeigen? Was sollte er besuchen?
Ich möchte ihm die Kirchen und ausgebrannten Häuser zeigen, damit er den Schaden sieht, den ISIS in dieser Stadt angerichtet hat. Und auch unser Heimatmuseum in Baghdida, um ihm unsere Geschichte und Kultur näher zu bringen.

What does this visit mean to you?
This visit has a moral value rather than an economic one. This is a topic that will engage public opinion around the world and especially in Iraq. I feel as though I have an important part to play in it.

What would you like to say to the Holy Father?

It would be wonderful to be able to meet him, and I would like to be able to say to him, “We need international protection, because our Christian community was forcibly displaced.”

What would you like to show him in Qaraqosh/ Baghdeda? What places should he visit?
I would like to be able to show him the churches and houses that were burnt out, so that he could see the destruction left behind by IS in this city. And also our Baghdeda Heritage Museum, so that we can show him our history and culture.