As the fight to conquer Mosul rages on, displaced Iraqi Christians are determined to return to their homes in areas that are being liberated from ISIS’s control.
Archbishop Bashar Warda, the bishop from Erbil who has led the relief effort during Iraqi Christians’ period of exile, said many of the 100,000 internally displaced people in northern Iraq have already started planning preparations to return to their homes in the towns and villages in the Nineveh Plain.
However, the archbishop did stress the difficulties Christians still face in returning to Mosul, which is still under the Islamic State’s control, but added that many are still hopefully awaiting the day they can return.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need interviewed Archbishop Warda. Warda told them: “People have not yet returned [to Nineveh] because of the operation to secure Mosul and the [subsequent] reconstruction plans… There is definitely a will to return after it’s secure. People have started [their] preparations… People have been holding prayers and celebrations. Some priests went to liberated villages-with soldiers. They sang hymns to the victorious Cross.”
While the archbishop is very hopeful of Christians returning to the Nineveh Plain, he is cautious about Mosul, especially in the short term: “Mosul is a difficult case, with the need to secure the city, clear the site of IEDS (improvised explosive devices) and then the reconstruction of the area… The concerns for [all these villages] are all one package: security, social, political and economic, not just one single issue.”
Religious Freedom Coalition sponsors two programs specifically for helping Christians facing persecution in the Middle East, specifically those who fled from the Nineveh Plain.
The Diapers for Refugees program aims to send 160,000 high quality disposable diapers to these Christian refugee families located in camps around Erbil every three months. Families in these camps are dying from diaper rash because of the inability to wash cloth diapers with soap and clean water. Due to the lack of diapers, mothers are forced to use donated clothing as diapers for their children, which still can’t be cleaned properly.
The Christmas for Refugees program helps displaced Christians from Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon that are being ignored by Islamic run charities. In 2013, 2014, Christmas events that included hot meals were served to Christian refugee children in Jordan and Lebanon. In 2015 the program was expanded to Christian IDP’s (Internally Displaced Persons) in Iraq who fled the Islamic State as the city of Mosul and Christians villages nearby were overrun. Much of the Nineveh Plain was also stolen from Christian families who fled to the Kurdish areas in the northeast. In 2016 the number of children served will be increased.