“We will kill you all”

ISIS graffiti written in German found in a recaptured village in Iraq By Maria Lozano Königstein/Erbil, 16 Nov. 2016 – Various photos sent by Stephen Rasche, a solicitor of the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), document the presence of extremists from European countries among the ISIS fighters. The photos show graffiti written in German and were taken in Batnaya – a small town on the Nineveh plains, 15 kilometres from Mosul. According to Father Steven Esam, a priest working there at the time, approximately 850 Christian families were living there when it was taken over by terrorists in August of 2014. In the inscriptions, the Christians are reviled as “Slaves of the Cross” and threatened with death. And they proclaim: “This country is Islamic country, you drty ones, that you not belong in.” And a further inscription declares: “Either you leave, or we will kill you.” The inscriptions partly written in bad German are on the walls of the chapel of St Addai in Batnaya. Stephen Rasche commented on the pictures in his letter to the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need: “The most important thing is to show the great degree of destruction in order to be able to understand what has happened and just how dangerous it still is to return. Furthermore, by showing the destruction and desecration of our holy places, I would like to communicate to the world just how much dread and fear our own people are feeling right now when they have to decide whether they would later like to return.” Further pictures were taken in the neighbouring city of Karamles (also Karemlash, Karamlash, Karemles, Karemlish), approximately 29 kilometres southeast of Mosul. The pictures illustrate the brutal actions of the terrorists. Apart from the churches that were desecrated and reduced to ruins and the broken and mutilated statues of the saints, Aid to the Church in Need was especially shocked by the desecration of the grave of a Catholic priest. Stephen Rasche explained, “The grave of one of our priests was dug up and the corpse removed. We found his vestments and the lid of the coffin, but there was no trace of the corpse.” The Catholic pastoral charity learned that the deceased was Salem Ganni, a priest who passed away in 2009, a relative of the 34-year-old priest Ragheed Ganni, who was shot dead in Mosul in 2007. Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting the Christians in Iraq since 2014 with more than 20 million euros in aid for emergency relief projects, education, food and the livelihoods of displaced persons.

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Founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and recognized as a papal foundation since 2011, ACN is dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, through information, prayer and action, wherever they are persecuted or oppressed or suffering material need. ACN supports every year an average of 6000 projects in close to 150 countries, thanks to private donations, as the foundation receives no public funding.