For Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, who attended the ceremony in Telleskuf (Teleskuf ) last Friday, 8 December, the re-consecration of the church of St George was a symbol of hope and victory. “It is a message of hope and victory”, he said. “DAESH wanted to eliminate the Christian presence here, but IS is gone and the Christians of Telleskuf are back.”
The Chaldean Church in Telleskuf was severely damaged during the invasion by ISIS and was also ransacked and desecrated afterwards. The main structure of the church was not affected, but the repair work needed was nonetheless expensive. As the Archbishop explained to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), “The opening of the church of St George in Telleskuf will be a powerful incentive to the other Christian towns and villages.”
“I am moved by the fact that the church of St George has not only been reopened, but has done so still more beautiful and glorious than before”, he added. “That is the way God’s Providence works”, he commented to ACN, minutes after the ceremony.
Thanks to the outside support it received, the Chaldean patriarchate has been able to invest in the rebuilding of the village of Telleskuf, which numbered around 1,500 families before the invasion by so-called Islamic State. According to Archbishop Warda, “two thirds of the population have already returned, and so it was necessary to send out a clear signal that the Church too would be resuming her normal activities.” ACN helped with a contribution of 100,000 Euros for the rebuilding of the church of St George. And the charity is hoping to be able to support the repair and renovation of two other churches on the Nineveh Plains, one a Syriac Catholic church and the other an Orthodox one.
Archbishop Warda wanted to reiterate his thanks to the benefactors of ACN for their generosity. “A huge thank you to all who have made it possible for us to celebrate the ‘victory of our return’. IS thought they could eliminate us, and yet it is IS who have disappeared and we have returned to Telleskuf. The reopening of this church is and will be a powerful symbol to all the other villages and reinforces us in our determination to rebuild them. Thanks to you, we can once more praise God here and the Christian presence can be preserved in this place”, he concluded.
According to the latest information available to ACN (updated on 5 December), the total number of Christian families who have returned to the Nineveh Plains has now risen to 6,330 families, which represents 33% of those who were forced to flee in 2014 when their villages were overrun by so-called Islamic State. During the month of November 1,147 families returned to their villages, over half of them (771 families) to Quaraqosh (Bakhdeda). However, of all the Christian villages, Telleskuf is the one to which the highest percentage (67%) have now returned to their homes.