When Qaraqosh, the last Christian majority town in Iraq, fell to Daesh (ISIS) in 2014, many feared there was no future for the country’s Christians. However, by June 2018, not only had the militant extremists been forced out, but new figures showed that nearly half of the town’s inhabitants had now returned.
The statistics, produced by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need in conjunction with the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, supported by local Church communities, revealed that 25,650 Christians were back in Qaraqosh.
The figures also showed that, of the 6,826 damaged homes in Qaraqosh, 2,187 had been restored with help from ACN and other organisations – more than a third.
The return of families peaked in August 2017 with parents anxious to secure school places for their children.
The restoration of Qaraqosh’s schools did not suffer the same fate suffered by those in nearby villages. Stephen Rasche, from the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, told a hearing at the US House of Representatives that so-called “completed” schools in the Christian-majority Teleskov and Batnaya were unusable. They only received “one thin coat of paint on the exterior surface walls, with freshly stencilled UNICEF logos every 30 feet”.
Highlighting steps towards the rehabilitation of Qaraqosh and elsewhere, ACN Middle East projects coordinator Father Andrzej Halemba nonetheless underlined the challenges ahead: “Along with the material construction of homes and churches, there is a fundamental issue which must be repaired in these lands: coexistence. In order for this to happen, Christian and Muslims must work together to make Iraq a united nation, which is capable of rising out of the ashes brought about by Daesh.”
ACN News, 21st August 2017; Washington Free Beacon, 4th October 2017; Hope on the Horizon: Can Iraq’s Christians go home? ACN (UK) benefactor report (March 2017); additional information from Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (https://www.nrciraq.org/).