ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Amid reports of ongoing sporadic attacks by the Islamic State (IS) in contested areas of Iraq, a senior Christian has called for international aid to protect returning internally displaced Christian families, Independent Catholic News (ICN) reported on Monday.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Timotheos Moussa al-Shamani expressed his security concerns for the returning Christian families who fled the 2014 IS invasion of the Nineveh Plains.
“An international peace-keeping force should be stationed on the Nineveh Plains. We want a guarantee that our freedom and our security will be upheld,” Shamani, the abbot of the Syriac Orthodox Mar Mattai monastery, founded in the 4th century and one of the oldest in the world, said.
There is a concern for the Christian community in Nineveh because even after the defeat of IS “a group similar to Da’esh, whatever it may call itself,” could re-emerge in the future, he added, using the Arabic pejorative for the extremist group.
IS continues to carry out random attacks, ambushes, and execution-style killings. These incidents are more concentrated in areas contested between the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad.
This fact has rightfully raised security concerns among returnees.
According to Jamal Talia, the Director-General of Christians’ affairs in the Kurdistan Region, the population of Christians in the Nineveh Plains, before IS attacks, was around 140,000 people.
By Aug. 7, 2014, IS had captured most majority Christian towns in Nineveh Province, forcing residents to flee.
Based on a BBC report shortly after the invasion, nearly 100,000 Christians in the Nineveh Plains were expected to escape the extremist group to other parts of Iraq.
Up until August 2018, of the Christian individuals who escaped, over 40 percent have returned to their homes, and 35 percent of homes in their towns and villages have been rebuilt, according to ICN.
Highlighting the urgency of the rebuilding process, Shamani claimed that “the Iraqi government has already told us that it has no money and will not be helping us.”
“This summer is very critical for us. We must make every effort to rebuild these villages.”
Since IS’ emergence, various local and international organizations have aided the many communities in protecting religious minorities affected by the terrorist organization.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany