Catholic archbishop takes lead in rebuilding Iraqi ‘ghost town’

Catholic archbishop takes lead in rebuilding Iraqi ‘ghost town’

A Catholic archbishop is desperately trying to breathe life back into Qaraqosh, a small Christian town on the Nineveh Plain in Iraq, that suffered from two years’ rule under ISIS and is now piecing itself back together.

Archbishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe of Mosul says he was the first to return home after the city was liberated 18 months ago.

I was the first to repair my house and move back here,” the media quoted him as saying. “When people say it is dangerous, I reply that there are several restaurants and shops, and people are enjoying life again.”

Locals say he has led efforts to encourage people to come back and now 5,000 families comprising 22,000 people have returned.

Yet with much of the reconstruction work depending on their own efforts, in lieu of government aid, a church-led reconstruction commission is helping people to repair their houses and shops that were looted.

Archbishop Moshe fled to Germany while ISIS pillaged the town.

“I had a better life there,” he said. “But I love this town and this country… I have been waiting impatiently for things to improve.”

He said villagers only began trickling back in after the schools reopened in October. On Palm Sunday March 25, thousands assembled in the city center for the first open-air ceremony in three years.

Many had fled to the neighboring Kurdistan region but as of mid-April businesses, many of them helped by the church, were open again selling everything from menswear to toys, the media reported.

Reports say the Christian population of Iraq stood at 1.5 million in 2003. That number dwindled to about 600,000 during the ensuing civil war in Iraq.

Now human rights groups say barely a few hundred thousand remain in the fractured country due to fear of attacks by the IS and other hate groups.

Sat, 04/14/2018 - 10:25
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