Iraq church leader pleads with UK Government to help rebuild devastated Christian town

(Photo: Aid to the Church in Need)Archbishop Petros Mouche

An Archbishop in Iraq is pleading with the UK Government to help rebuild a Christian town that was devastated by the Islamic State. 

Archbishop Petros Mouche, of the Syriac Catholic Church, said it had been a struggle to rebuild homes in Qaraqosh, the largest Christian-majority town in the Nineveh Plains, Aid to the Church in Need reports. 

The ferocity of the assault by ISIS forced many of the town's inhabitants to flee three years ago.  Around 120,000 Christians fled to Kurdish northern Iraq, while thousands more sought shelter abroad.

But with the Islamic State now in retreat, thousands of Iraqi Christians have been making their way back home. 

Archbishop Mouche said the town was "coming back to life" but there are still huge challenges, with more than 6,300 homes damaged in the conflict and another 14,000 needing to be rebuilt. 

Aid to the Church in Need is helping to repair and rebuild some of these homes but Archbishop Mouche believes it will take wider efforts by the international community to really get the region back on its feet again.

"We are waiting and hoping that governments like that of the United Kingdom will step in and help us on this front," he said.

He is critical of the Iraqi government's efforts to help rebuild Qaraqosh and other communities in Nineveh, saying that most of the positive change has been the result of outside help.

"Our confidence in the state is low. The Iraqi government has made many promises, but few projects have been implemented," he said. 

Not everyone has returned home, though, and Archbishop Mouche believes more help from countries like the UK would go a long way to assuring the town's former inhabitants that they can find "peace and stability" back in Nineveh. 

In spite of his optimism, he still harbours fears that some in the town may yet leave if the local government is not able to protect Christians.

"There is not one specific party with plans to attack Christians," he said.

"However, whoever has ambitions to grab our land... does not respect the rights of others. Such parties don't feel comfortable with our survival and ongoing presence."

Archbishop Mouche added: "The Church as a whole is sparing no effort to claim the rights of its people and to secure an area where we can live in dignity and peace.

"Church leaders do their best to instil confidence and hope in our people, but without forcing anyone to return, stay or be displaced. That decision each family must make for itself, the decision that guarantees its dignity, its future, especially the future of the children."

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