Residents in 'normal' Mosul await the return of Christians

Residents in 'normal' Mosul await the return of Christians

By Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner/

Life in eastern Mosul is now back to normal.

Restaurants and shops have reopened, streets are full, even in the middle of the day during Ramadan, while women have abandoned the niqab for a simple veil...

But the churches of the town - Chaldean, Syrian Catholic or Assyrian - have all been entirely destroyed.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphaël Sako and three other bishops visited the town on Monday, June 12, for the first time since the ISIS attack in 2014.

“Everything has changed so much, including the streets,” commented Patriarch Sako, still in shock. “I could no longer recognize anything.”

The wall marble, roofs, windows, doors had all been stripped and sold off. The same was true for St George’s Monastery and the Victory Convent of the Chaldean Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

Only one small house belonging to a community of Iraqi sisters was spared, “probably because ISIS did not realize that it was a convent".

At the moment it is impossible to say Mass in Mosul. So before leaving the delegation prayed for Mosul in the Christian suburbs of Ankawa in Erbil.

Just three days earlier, Ankawa had welcomed home a young girl named Cristina. In the summer of 2014, she was kidnapped by ISIS while fleeing the plains of Nineveh with her parents in a bid to seek refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Despite the damage inflicted by the relentless ISIS attacks on Christian buildings, Patriarch Sako was nevertheless impressed by the hospitality of the people.

“Some Mosul locals had replaced a cross that had been thrown on the ground. Everyone we met asked us the same thing: when are the Christians coming back?” he said.

The delegation also met with the director of Iraqi army operations in the city, General Al Juburi, at his headquarters in the former home of a wealthy Armenian which has now been occupied by the army.

General Al Juburi asked the delegation the same question.

“He told me he would do everything in his power to enable Christians to return to Mosul,” Patriarch Sako noted.

The patriarch also visited his family home where he found two families living, separated by a barrier that they erected.

“They offered to move out or to pay rent,” Patriarch Sako explained. “I told them to stay, and that we would see about it later.”

The patriarch remains hopeful. On the Muslim side, he hopes that this trying period will serve as a lesson.

“The Islamic State is a utopia, and Muslims must resolve this problem themselves in the context of their own religion,” he said.

On the Christian side, he wishes to see hope “reappear in people’s hearts", especially in the hearts of priests who “often serve as guides in our country that is still marked by tribal culture".

He is sure that a Chaldean priest will accept the offer to return with “one or two families” and settle there. This would spark the beginning of a "new movement", he said.

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 23:22
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