Chaldean Catholic


ACN Feature story – Iraq: Batanya is back

18.03.2020 in ACN BENEFACTORS, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq


Batnaya is back

Text by John Pontifex, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Posted on line March 18, 2020

Catholic charity to help rebuild flattened Christian village

A massive program has just received the go ahead to help revive a Christian village in Iraq, which was almost completely razed to the ground after being seized by Daesh (ISIS).

The plan for Batnaya devised by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will involve restoring the Chaldean Catholic village’s parish church of St Kyriakos, repair the nearby Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, the parish hall, library and parish house (presbytery), as well rebuild the flattened St Oraha’s Dominican Convent and the kindergarten, which the Sisters will run, caring for 125 children.

The plan is seen as crucial to the revival of a village, where, after more as two years of Islamist occupation, just one percent of its 997 Christian homes was still standing.


Announcing the plan for the most devastated of the 13 Daesh-occupied Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains, ACN Middle East projects director Father Andrzej Halemba described the program as “a new and courageous step forward to secure the future of Batnaya. Even if the situation is not very clear, we see the importance of a sign of hope. ACN is determined to help the Christians to stay. Our task is to stand by the people who would like to come back.”

Rebuilding Batnaya is an immense task as the village was on the frontline of fighting between Daesh and coalition forces. After the Daesh occupation ended in October 2016, the village was abandoned as a ghost town. Batnaya was disputed territory between the federal government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government. Widespread booby-trapping has delayed work which could only begin after a huge de-ordnance program had been completed. Restoration has been further hampered by the extensive tunnels dug under the village by captives of Daesh who went underground to escape bombardment.

More recently work got underway to repair houses, electricity, water and schools and last summer families finally started to return. Within eight months, 300 people have come back and church leaders now think hundreds more will return after years of displacement in neighbouring towns and villages.


The extremists had smashed altars, decapitated statues and daubed blasphemous anti-Christian messages on the walls. Work on the church and chapel will involve replacement of windows, doors and roof tiles, redecoration throughout and removal of Daesh graffiti such as “Slaves of the Cross, we will kill you all. This is Islamic territory. You do not belong here.”

For many Christians, returning has meant overcoming memories of Daesh daubing homes with ‘n’ for ‘Nazarene’ (Christian) and demands to pay jizya Islamic tax, convert to Islam or face execution by the sword. Resettlement of Batnaya is key for the recovery of the Christian presence in the Nineveh Plains.

ACN News – Address to the United Nations Security Council by Chaldean Bishop

11.12.2019 in Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, United Nations, Youth Apostolate


Address to the United Nations Security Council

An ACN partner, Msgr Bashar Warda, Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil in Iraq, gave an address to the United Nations security council on December 3rd.  Here is what he had to say to the international community.

Archbishop Warda at Myeondong Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul – a special Mass and lecture for the Church in Iraq was held.

Address of Archbishop Bashar Warda

Kurdistan Region, Iraq

To: UN Security Council, New York
December 3, 2019

Security Council Meeting Concerning the Situation in Iraq

Thank you Madame President:


What is the current situation?

The current protests in Iraq demonstrate the rejection by the majority of the Iraqi people of the post 2003 structure and government of the country. It is a rejection of a sectarian-based Constitution, which has divided Iraq and prevented it from becoming a unified and functioning country. Instead of bringing hope and prosperity, the current government structure has brought continued corruption and despair, especially to the youth of Iraq.

It is very significant that young Iraqis have been the leaders in the protests. These young people have made it clear that they want Iraq to be independent of foreign interference, and to be a place where all can live together as equal citizens in a country of legitimate pluralism and respect for all.

It is important to understand that Christians have not only sided with the protestors openly, but
also that the Christians and other minorities including Yazidis, have been welcomed into the protest
movement by the Iraqi Muslims. In a real sense, these protests have demonstrated the true richness of
the historical Iraq. This opening of reconciliation between all Iraqis demonstrates real hope for positive
changes in which a new government in Iraq, if there is a new government, will be much more positive
towards a genuinely multi-religious Iraq with full citizenship for all and an end to this sectarian disease
which has so violently harmed and degraded us all.

In contrast, the non-violence of the protestors must not be overlooked by the international
community. These courageous protestors have been committed to non-violence from the very beginning
of the movement, even though there have been daily instances of extreme violence directed towards the
protestors from militia forces who have continually attempted to provoke confrontation. Over 400
innocent protestors have now been murdered, and many thousands seriously injured. Yet the protestors
still remain non-violent.


What is at stake?

At stake is whether Iraq will finally emerge from the trauma of Saddam and the past 16 years to
become a legitimate, independent and functioning country, or whether it will become a permanently
lawless region, open to proxy wars between other countries and movements, and a servant to the
sectarian demands of those outside Iraq.

If the protest movement is successful in creating a new government, with a new, civil
constitution, respecting the diversity of its religions, and cultures, one not based in Sharia but instead
based upon the fundamental concepts of freedom for all, freedoms enshrined in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights written by this organization where we all sit today, then a time of hope can
still exist for the long suffering Iraqi people. Despite everything, the Iraqi people love their country, and
they want it back.

If the protest movement is not successful, if the international community stands by and allows
the murder of innocents to continue, Iraq will likely soon fall into civil war, the result of which will send
millions of young Iraqis, including most Christians and Yazidis, into the diaspora. In the crisis and the
genocide of 2014, over four million Iraqis, Muslims, Yazidis and Christians fled to the Kurdistan region
seeking refuge from the evil of ISIS, but still remained within the country. In another major conflict, we
are likely to see the people flee from Iraq for good. We are indeed at perhaps the last chance for our


What can and should the international community do to help?

The international community must not be satisfied with false changes in leadership which do not
really represent change. It is clear that the ruling power groups do not intend to give up control, and that
they will make every effort to fundamentally keep the existing power structures in place. The
international community must clearly understand that the protestors will not accept this, and the
international community must not take part in supporting any type of false change.
This is not to say that certain groups do not have legitimate concerns regarding their proper
representation in any new government. However, these concerns must be addressed in a way which
reflects the reality of the current broken nature of Iraq’s government, and its fundamental need for
change and replacement.

The first step must be the initiation of early elections. The protestors insist on this and the
International community must fully support this. Unlike the very limited participation of past elections,
these elections must involve the youth of the country – those who have stood up so courageously against
corruption during the protests these past weeks.

In the period before and during the elections, the press, both Iraqi and international must be
completely free to report on and discuss all the issues that need to be addressed by the elections. In this,
the current blocking of news reporting, internet and social media, must end immediately.
Finally, elections must be fully monitored by the United Nations, and observed by all major
parties in Iraq so that the elections are legitimate, free and fair. Only in this way can a new government
set a course for the future of an Iraq which is free of corruption and where there is full citizenship and
opportunity for all.

The young Christians of Iraq have been participants in these protests every day. They have been
there because the protests have given them hope for a future, a future in which they belong as equal and
contributing Iraqi citizens. Along with the millions of other marginalized Iraqis, they look now to the
International community for your action and support. We hold you all accountable for this. Iraq, the
country which has so often been harmed, now looks to you all for help. We believe we have a future,
and we ask you not to turn away from us now.

Thank you

ACN Interview: Professor Muna Yako, Iraqi Christian activist and constitutional expert

20.09.2019 in ACN, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq


Political Islamists attempt to radicalize judiciary in Iraq

 Christians fear a theocracy as parliamentarians try to change the Federal Supreme Court, which interprets the constitution and determines the constitutionality of laws and regulations.

By Xavier Bisits, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Griffin ACN Canada

In a country where Christians have grappled with targeted bombings, kidnapping, and discrimination, leaders are grappling with a new crisis: an attempt to give Islamic clerics voting rights on the country’s Federal Supreme Court.

The move, which is not yet confirmed, would bring Iraq a step closer to an Iran-like theocracy, where non-Muslims are forced to live under Islamic Sharia law. For example, in Iran, Christian women are forced to wear the veil, and alcohol is completely banned.

The change would include four Islamic jurists as part of 13 voting members of the country’s Federal Supreme Court. All decisions would require the support of at least three of the four jurists, permanently radicalizing the country’s judiciary.

This past August, Professor Muna Yako, an Iraqi Christian activist and constitutional expert, explained to ACN that although the Constitution refers to Islam as the foundation of law, it also references the importance of democracy and human rights.

This change to the Federal Supreme court would likely mean that Islamic law will always take precedence: “You need to have the court to interpret the constitution. Right now, I hope that if a case goes to the Federal Court they might prioritize human rights and democracy, in some instances. If, however, these Islamic jurists join the court, we will have no chance of ever prioritizing democracy or human rights.”

Iraq, Karamlesh (Karamles), July 2019 – buildings destroyed by ISIS


It would also mean an end to any attempts to overturn legislation that discriminates against religious minorities and treats them as second-class citizens. For example, current law says that non-Muslims can convert to Islam, but the reverse can’t happen. Likewise, Christian men are not allowed to marry Muslim women without converting to Islam, which is “unconstitutional discrimination.”

“If, however, these Islamic jurists join the court, we will have no chance of ever prioritizing democracy or human rights.”

“The Iraqi government has disappointed us so far, but I still have hope of seeing change. If the court adopts this law, though, I will no longer have any hope. This will make Iraq like a theocracy because all the laws will be based on religion – for example, rules about clothes and alcohol.“

She worries that if this “terrifying” change happens,  even more Christians will leave the country and “we will become just a memory, just like the Jews.” Most Christians belong to indigenous groups who have been in the country for thousands of years.

Vigil prayer for the Middle East at Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark´s Basilica) in Rome, 27.09.2017: His Beatitude Louis Raphaël I Sako (Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church from Iraq)

Cardinal Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, in a letter to the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, wrote of his concern that this is proposed “after all the suffering we have endured from terrorism, displacement, pillaging, murder, and property theft.” He expressed his worry that the proposal would threaten the future of Christians in the country, by applying Islamic law to Christians in personal matters, such as inheritance.

This opinion is backed up by other legal experts. Dr Majida Sanaan-Guharzi, writing in the newspaper Kurdistan 24, believes that the change “could substantially alter the court’s function, promoting an increasingly theocratic state wherein religious rules take precedence over the existing, mostly secular, legal system.”


The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need has extensive operations underway in Iraq and has mostly been working to provide emergency support to Christians affected by Daesh (also known as the Islamic State or ISIS). ACN’s main focus at present is on rebuilding church properties that were deliberately targeted during the three-year occupation.


November 2018, Immaculate Conception Church in Qaraqosh, destroyed during violence under reconstruction.

ACN News: The call of Chaldean Bishop Sako for the guarantee of minority rights in Iraq

27.05.2019 in Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, Middle East, Press Release, Religious freedom


 ‘Constant discrimination, uncertainty’ are pushing Christians out of Iraq


The leader of the Chaldean Church has called on the Iraqi government to put in place and enforce laws “that guarantee Christians and other religious minorities … full citizenship and freedom in practicing their faiths explicitly.


Montreal, Friday – May 24, 2019: “The absence of serious steps” to protect the rights of minority faiths in the country, says Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako in a statement to Aid to the Church in Need, “will push the remaining Christians and minorities to choose emigration.”


Christians and minorities “have played a significant role in enriching Iraq’s cultural, social and economic diversity, making valuable contributions to education, health, public administration and social services,” said the Cardinal; without them, Iraq would become “a country with one homogeneous fabric [that] could be isolated from the world and [which] may generate a kind of radicalism, [and] ethnic and sectarian fanaticism.”


In his declaration, Patriarch Sako lists a number of factors that are pushing Christians and other minorities into leaving the country. These include the ongoing “fragility of the security situation” and Iraq’s “institutional weakness at the level of justice,” the state’s failure to protect non-Muslims from discrimination in the realms of “education, employment and social life,” as well as at the political level. Christians with outstanding professional qualifications, the cardinal charged, are denied positions only because of their faith. “Qualification and competence,” the cardinal insisted—and not an individual’s faith—should be the “measure for employment.”


Christians denied seats in Iraqi Parliament

Furthermore, the patriarch notes that Christians are denied their rightful quota of five seats in the Iraqi Parliament. He also calls for the application of “a civil law for all Iraqis,” rather than Christians and other religious minorities being “subjugated to [an] Islamic court, [with regard to] spiritual, religious matters, marriages, inheritance, etc.”


Patriarch Sako proposes a number of additional “practical measures” to fight the “injustice and discrimination” suffered by religious minorities. He calls on the Iraqi leadership and “political ‘powers’” to combat “religious extremism that uses violence” and to take measures toward “disarming militias; providing security and stability; combating extremism, discrimination, terrorism and corruption.”


The cardinal insists that the Iraqi political leadership should promote “citizenship values” that support the common good by drawing on “principles of freedom, dignity, democracy, social justice and true relationship among all Iraqi citizens regardless of their religious, cultural and ethnic affiliations.” Such policies will bring about harmonious “coexistence with Muslims” for Iraqi’s religious minorities.


Finally, the Patriarch calls for laws that help create “good conditions that guarantee Christians and other religious minorities … full citizenship and freedom in practicing their faiths explicitly; preserve their heritage, archaeological and historical monuments as an integral part of Iraqi civilization, in order to enable them to continue their lives with dignity.”


By Joop Koopman for ACN International
 And Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada
Published on the web Monday May 27, 2019

Iraq – The call of Msgr Sako to Iraqi Leaders

20.10.2017 in ACN International, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq


The call of Msgr Sako to Iraqi Leaders


Below, we are publishing in its entirety the “A Call to Iraqi Leaderships” which ACN received directly from Chaldean Patriarch, Msgr Louis Raphael Sako, himself.


 A Call to Iraqi Leaderships

These days, our country is going through unprecedented circumstances that are the result of all that happened in Iraq from the north to the south for years and until now. Therefore, this critical phase requires a comprehensive and national collaboration to go beyond this crisis and move forward to the solution of the crisis, the creation of a national and real partnership, and the rise of a new Iraq.

The incidents that took place during the last period was a part of conflicts that led to permanent tension and the collapse of the stability. In every instance, the innocent civilians were the first innocent casualties.

If the unity of Iraq drew the attention of the international community, whether for strategic benefits or for principled stance, this unity is the share of all Iraqi parties, whether in terms of the responsibility of preserving it or in causing it to fail. As the original components in Iraq are concerned in common living, they are calling to bypass this fragile situation by adopting the spirit of citizenship and law, clemency and forgiveness, and not the spirit of revenge, suspicion, reprisal, or loud voices.

In this declaration, we in caution and love are calling the Iraqi Leaderships in the Center and the Region, to move forward to rescue what happened in the last years. For Iraq is the responsibility of us all, and it is in an urgent need now for a real, national reconciliation to ease the political process on the right path. A courageous, honest, and civilized dialogue should be initiated to discuss all matters on the basis of the constitution; this is a sincere wish of wise people, confirmed by the wise authority.

This national reconciliation can lead to practical and proper ways out of the whole crisis, not the referendum only. The problems occurring in the country are not between strangers from places afar but they are among brethren and citizens living in the same homeland. Therefore, the right solutions cannot be reached without negotiations and reform of thinking. This method shall lead to offering mutual concessions courageously and the cooperation of Iraq’s various leaderships as one front against the danger of creating new conflicts; namely, to protect the people first before the oil wells. The goal is the rise of a modern and strong civil country under a consolidated political command to help develop the governmental establishment and to reform the economic, social, and cultural sectors. All this progress shall be supported by building confidence, developing security measures, securing stability, supporting the reconstruction process, and paving the way for the return of the displaced to the homeland, in the Iraq of coexistence and civilizations.

+ Louis Raphael Sako
Chaldean Patriarch




ACN Press Release – Iraqi Christians’ future threatened by referendum crisis

06.10.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN Intl, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Bishops, By John Newton, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, Press Release, press@acn-intl.org



 Iraqi Christians face new threat

Church leaders in northern Iraq have issued a stark warning that the crisis triggered by last week’s Kurdistan independence referendum could endanger the region’s Christian presence.

Vigil prayer for the Middle East at Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark´s Basilica) in Rome, 27.09.2017 
(From left to the right): 
Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of Mosul, 
Mons Timothaeus Mosa Alshamany (Syriac Orthodox Archishop from Iraq) 
Syrian orthodox bishop Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf (Syro-Orthodox Metropolitain from Musu, Kerkuk and Kurdistan)

Following the referendum, which could see the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) area seceding from northern Iraq, five senior Catholic and Orthodox bishops issued a statement appealing to the international community to protect Christians and help them stay in their ancestral lands, especially the Nineveh Plains. In the statement, a copy received by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, they wrote: “We cannot hide our concern that the situation for the Christians has become very difficult and leads to uncertainty.”

“It is a clear fact that this situation has created in Christians a state of fear and concern about the possibility that the struggle may develop into a crisis that will have far-reaching repercussions for all,” they added.

The message was written by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Nicodemus Sharif of Mosul, Archbishop Apris Jounsen, Chaldean Bishop Rabban Al-Qas of Amadiyah and Zaku, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Timotheos Mousa of the Archdiocese of Mor Mattai Monastery.

Their message stressed the precarious situation of Nineveh’s Christians – many of whom are still in the capital of the Kurdish northern Iraq, Erbil, after Daesh (ISIS) drove them out of their homes in 2014. With many Christian settlements located in disputed territories, the bishops cautioned, “Care should be made not to involve the last remaining Christian land in political bargaining, as our vulnerable community cannot withstand further schism and division in addition to the ongoing political and sectarian fights.”

The statement stressed that in the community’s vulnerable situation, further upheavals could see new waves of emigration – threatening its very survival.

Photo: Iraq, September 2017  Qaraqosh the procession of the Christians in Qaraqosh who symbolically coming back their town (from the outskirts of the city at the roundabout with a huge Cross to the Church of Immaculate Conception Church (Syriac Catholic)


The Plain of Nineveh should remain a unified territory

Notably, the bishops called for the Nineveh Plains not to be split between Iraq and an independent Kurdistan. “The future Plain of Nineveh should be maintained as a unified territory – it is critical to not divide it into parts.” The bishops expressed fears that the restoration of the towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains may be brought to a standstill as the area now faces an uncertain political future.

“While both the federal government and the KRG are engaged in struggles over the disputed area, including the historical areas of our people, the areas liberated from the control of the criminal ISIS gangs are in an appalling condition in terms of reconstruction, public services, and security.

“There are no serious attempts at reconstructing the area at all by the governments. This makes it difficult for the IDPs to return, thereby prolonging their plight.”


Committed to the resettlement program

In the meantime, Archbishop Warda, fellow bishops and aid coordinators including Stephen Rasche in interviews, have underlined their commitment to enabling the resettlement program to continue in spite of the post-referendum setbacks.

Photo: Archbishop Warda at Myeondong Cathedral, cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul, where Special Mass and Lecture for the Church in Iraq was held.

Expressing concerns that Christian areas risked losing their historic identity, the bishops in their statement called for dialogue between the Iraqi Federal Government and the KRG.

“Amidst the crisis that the country experiences today following the referendum of Kurdistan Region, we call upon all parties involved to opt for dialogue and moderation and to stop the escalation of the conflict through the media.”

The bishops hoped that both sides could work on the disputed issues “to reach a suitable solution apart from spreading the feelings of hatred that fuel conflicts.”


Grateful to Kurdistan

Fearing that Christians could be caught in an armed struggle between factions vying for power, the bishops added: “We demand that the use of arms be restricted to the official government security forces, which we encourage our young men to join.”The bishops also paid tribute to the Kurdish people who had assisted the Christian community after they were driven out of their homes.

“Undoubtedly, we Christians can never forget how our brothers in Kurdistan Region, as a people and government, received us and supported our displaced persons, not only Christians but also other components of the Iraqi people.”



Headline Photo : Iraq, September 2017  Qaraqosh the procession of the Christians in Qaraqosh who symbolically coming back their town (from the outskirts of the city at the roundabout with a huge Cross to the Church of Immaculate Conception Church (Syriac Catholic)
Text by John Newton, ACN UK
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada



ACN News – Facilitating the return of Christians to the Nineveh Plains

30.09.2017 in Abducted Clergy and Religious, ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, ACN SPECIAL SERIES, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Aid to refugees, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, Aide à l’Église en détresse., By Maria Lozano, Chaldean Catholic, CONSTRUCTION, Iraq

Rome /Iraq

“Facilitate their return and guarantee their protection”

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin calls for the respect of the rights of Christians in Iraq.

The Cardinal was speaking at a conference organized by the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on Thursday 28 September in Rome to support the return of the Iraqi Christians to their former homes in the Nineveh plains. This is a major concern for the Holy See which, as Cardinal Parolin emphasized, “has missed no opportunity to speak out on behalf of these Christians, reiterating on numerous occasions the necessity of facilitating their return and ensuring adequate measures of protection and respect for their rights.”

The Secretary of State expressed his gratitude for “the support provided by ACN in the three years since the ISIS invasion, which has enabled the many uprooted Christian families to endure this situation with dignity and in security.” At the same time, however, he emphasized that although “much has been done, yet much remains to be done” and called for support for the ACN sponsored reconstruction program “Return to the Roots”, showing the charity that “this so-called ‘Marshall Plan’ for the Plains of Nineveh, is yet another sign of the concern you have shown, with a sense of urgency and with remarkable efficiency and organization.”

Rome, Italy 27.09.2017
Dinner before the Conference “Return to the roots: Christians in the Nineveh Plains” hosted by Aid to this Church in Need starts the next morning – His Beatitude Louis Raphaël I Sako (Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church from Iraq)

A genocide, beyond any doubt

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, another of the keynote speakers at the conference, also denounced the “genocide” of the Christians in Iraq, whose numbers have declined in recent years from 1.5 million people to less than 500,000:  “The real reason behind this kind of discrimination is the hatred of the radical Muslim persecutors towards the Christians, which has driven them to wipe away our heritage, destroy our homes and even to remove us from the memory of Iraqi history,” he said, adding, “This is genocide by all possible means.” Answering the question as to how the international community can prevent this terrible tragedy from continuing, Patriarch Sako said: “We urge those in charge to be seriously open-minded. The United States of America especially bears a moral responsibility to ‘diagnose’ the reality of what is happening in Iraq and the region,” he added. The Chaldean Patriarch highlighted five points for immediate action – educational support, political support, security and stabilization of the liberated areas, humanitarian assistance and defeating fundamentalism and terrorism.

For his part the Apostolic Nuncio in Jordan and Iraq, Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin (pictured above) , outlined the “complex situation of the region,” and mentioned, as an example,  “the referendum being pursued by President Masoud Barzani of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, which took place on Monday 25 September”. The archbishop recalled the importance of the Christians in the region and called on all people to “commit themselves for the protection of the religious minorities and at the same terms sponsor aid for development and the promotion of peace.” This would help “get to the root of the situation and help to prevent the crisis of emigration,” he said.


The conference, which took place 27 – 28 September in Rome, was “a call to the international community – politicians, entrepreneurs, ambassadors and other organisations – at a crucial moment in time in order to make possible the return of the Christians to their ancestral homes,” according to Philipp Ozores, (photo above) the Secretary General of ACN. “Now is the time to help,” he said. “We are working with benefactors around the world to support our Iraqi brothers and sisters and keep their hope alive. But action of governments is indispensable in order to bring the reconstruction to a larger scale and guarantee the rights of the Christians. We are conscious that Iraq is still in a difficult moment. But we are certain that if we do not help the Christians in Iraq today, there will be no need to even talk of this topic tomorrow.”

The Canadian office of the international charity will be launching a fundraising and awareness raising campaign for its benefactors and the public at large in November to facilitate the reconstruction of the Nineveh Plain, essential to the survival or Iraqi Christians.


Text by Maria Lozano, ACN International
Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, ACN Canada






ACN Feature Story: Iraq- The Dominicans are going home

09.06.2017 in Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Daniele Piccini, Chaldean Catholic, CONSTRUCTION, Iraq


The Dominicans are going home


On the Nineveh Plain, in Iraq, 363 church buildings or other Church properties were damaged or destroyed by Islamic State (IS) and are now in need of rebuilding.

Dominican Sisters Luma Khuder and Nazek Matty, are both saying, “We hope to be able to return to Teleskuf as soon as possible. The families there have need of us.” Father Andrzej Halemba, the acting chair of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, told the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “Already 450 families have returned to Teleskuf; we are hoping that many others will follow their example.”

“The agreement between the three Christian Churches is a good sign. People can see that the Churches are united and that the decisions are not being taken unilaterally.” Sister Luma Khuder and Sister Nazek Matty, both Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena originally from the convent of Our Lady of the Rosary in Teleskuf to the north of Mosul, see it as encouraging sign that Christian Churches in Iraq are committing to rebuilding the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plain, destroyed by the so-called Islamic State. On 27 March this year the Syrian Catholic Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church formally established a committee, the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC), whose task is to oversee and plan the repair and rebuilding of almost 13,000 family homes.

March 2017: the Sisters can finally see their convent for the first time in two years.

Before the summer of 2014 the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena had convents in several different towns on the Nineveh plains. Then the extremist fighters of Islamic State arrived and together with around 70 or so fellow Dominican sisters, Sister Luma and Sister Nazek found themselves internal refugees in the autonomous Kurdish -controlled region of northeast Iraq. “In 2014, as soon as we had arrived in Erbil,” explains Sister Luma, “We began distributing food, milk and nappies. We set up “emergency convents” in order to be as close as possible to the Christian refugees, to serve them and accompany them. In 2015, just as soon as the refugees were housed in more permanent lodgings, we opened two schools, one in Ankawa, to the north of Erbil, and the other in Dohuk. There are 600 children at the school in Erbil, ranging in age from 6 to 13. We also opened a nursery school, which has 392 children in it. These centres are financed by ACN among others. We depend totally on their aid.”


The return of the displaced peoples – hoping for a domino effect

By now the situation is starting to change, and “the number of internal refugees in Kurdistan is slowly decreasing” notes Sister Nazek. “There is no longer any danger in Teleskuf, and a number of families have now returned to their homes,” she explains. And Sister Luma adds: “ACN is starting to rebuild the homes, including those in Teleskuf. IS only stayed in the village for a short time, and so the houses are not too badly damaged. We are also repairing our convent of Our Lady of the Rosary in Teleskuf, with the help of ACN. We want to return there as soon as possible together with the people, who are tired by now of living far from home.”

Restoration of Immaculate Mary (Al-Um Al-Tahira) convent in favour of Dominican Sisters fof St Catherine of Siena – Qaraqosh

“We know that since January 2017 around 450 families have returned to Teleskuf, and many others are preparing to return”, explains Father Andrzej Halemba, who heads the project section of ACN for the Middle East and is likewise acting chairman of the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee. “Today, of all the villages on the plains of Nineveh, Teleskuf is the safest. The area is in fact controlled by the Kurdish army. We are hoping that the return of the Christian families to Teleskuf will have a “domino effect” on the families from the other villages, who are still hesitating to return for fear that the situation is not yet altogether secure. ACN will be contributing over 40,000 Euros towards the cost of restoring the Dominican convent in Teleskuf. The Sisters need to return as soon as possible, for the families have need of them.”

Over the Nineveh Plain as a whole there are 363 Church properties that were attacked by so-called IS and which now need to be repaired or rebuilt. Of these 34 have been totally destroyed, 132 were set on fire and 197 are partly damaged. In Teleskuf alone we have counted 1104 private homes and 21 Church properties that have been damaged by IS.”


ACN will be contributing over $58,000 towards the cost of restoring the Dominican convent in Teleskuf.


Article: Daniele Piccini, ACN International
English adaptation : Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canada


ACN Feature Story – Where priests double as master-builders

23.05.2017 in ACN International, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, By Daniele Piccini, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq, Persecution of Christians, Reconstruction

Nineveh Plains

Where priests double as master-builders

Meet Father Georges Jahola of the Syriac Catholic Church, and Father Salar Boudagh of the Chaldean Catholic Church, in charge of the reconstruction work in some of the Christian villages on the Nineveh Plains.

Fr. Georges Jahola, a Syrian-Catholic priest from Qarakosh

It happens that Catholic priests must suddenly improvise and move into other roles – such as educators, parents, advisors, teachers and sometimes even as technical instructors. In Iraq, where the so-called Islamic State has damaged or destroyed almost 13,000 homes belonging to Christian families on the Nineveh plains, they have been required to assume the role of engineers and master-builders, in the interests of seeing their Catholic faithful return to their hometowns and villages, one day.

The study of building plans sometimes takes the place of other more priestly duties and the priests, after having celebrated Holy Mass, are soon on the telephone, ordering electrical equipment, window fittings, sanitary ware and other building materials. “Here in Iraq, if the Church does not tackle these things, who else will do it? We have the skills, the ability to engage in dialogue and the necessary contacts,” explains Father Georges Jahola, who originates from the town of Baghdeda (Qaraqosh) and a member of the “Nineveh Reconstruction Commitee” (NRC). This committee set up by the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) as a body tasked with planning and supervising the rebuilding of thousands of Christian homes destroyed by IS.

Fr. Salar Boudagh, from Iraq, Diocese of Alqosh

In Baghdeda, no fewer than 6,327 homes belonging to the Syriac Catholic Christians are in need of rebuilding (at least 108 of them destroyed), while those of the Syriac Orthodox Christians number 400 (only seven of which have been totally destroyed). However, there is no lack of enthusiasm or ability. “After the liberation of the town, between  November 11 and December 3, 2016, we spent 15 working days photographing 6,000 houses in Baghdeda,” explains Father Jahola. “We divided them up and mapped them sector by sector, assessing the degree of damage in each case. There are houses that are very badly damaged or even destroyed, which need complete rebuilding; houses that have been burned or struck by missiles, which can still be rebuilt. And then, there are houses that have been only partially damaged and can be repaired without much difficulty. We began work with a team of 20 volunteer engineers. Today I have 40 of them helping me and almost 2000 able-bodied workers ready to start work. We are optimistic about it. The re-connection of the electricity supply is slowly being extended throughout the town.”

Reestablishing Christianity in the lands of the prophets

The first rebuilding projects are focusing on those villages where IS only stayed for a short time, without doing too much damage. “We have begun rebuilding work in Telleskof and Bakofa, because the damage to the houses is not too serious, unlike in Badnaya, where 80% of the houses have been destroyed,” explains Father Salar Boudagh, 35, vicar general of the Chaldean diocese of Alqosh and a member of the NRC, now responsible for the rebuilding work of five Chaldean Catholic villages in  the Niniveh plains: Telleskof, Bakofa, Badnaya, Telkef, in the eastern section, and Karamless, in the western sector of the Niniveh plains.

“Before the arrival of IS,” continues Father Salar, “there were 1,450 families living in Telleskof, 110 in Bakofa, 950 in Badnaya, over 700 in Telkef and 875 in Karamless. For these families the first precondition for returning to their villages is security. Our area, the eastern part of the Niniveh plains, is patrolled by a Christian security force, the Zeravani, who can give us a 100% guarantee of security. They are an official militia who are paid a salary by Kurdistan.”

The second condition is the financial resources. The almost 13,000 houses that now need rebuilding, following the ravages of IS, have been divided according to the “coefficient of damage.” “It costs 7,000 dollars to refurbish a home that has been lightly damaged,” Father Salar explains, reading the figures from his smartphone. “To repair a house that has been burned out costs 25,000; to rebuild a house that has been totally destroyed costs 65,000 dollars. I pray to God,” he concludes, “that the benefactors of ACN, who have helped us so much up till now, will continue to help us in every way possible – to rebuild our homes and our villages, to encourage the families to return and re-establish Christianity in the land of the prophets.”


Article: Daniele Piccini, ACN International
English adaptation : Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canada



Feature Interview: Iraq – Archbishop Bashar Warda

17.11.2016 in ACN International, Adaptation Mario Bard, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Chaldean Catholic, Iraq


“People will go back when Mosul is liberated”

The displaced Christians in Erbil will probably not be able to return to their villages in the Nineveh Plain until the of summer 2017. While military operations have broadly secured the area, snipers, mines and pockets of militants remain. Until the final liberation of Mosul, it will be not safe for villagers to return. 

Another fundamental condition for the return of Mosul families will be the reconstruction of their villages. In the meantime, according to Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, internally displaced Christians need to survive the winter in Erbil.

In an interview during his visit [Wednesday November 9] to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Warda said: “Going back I think is certain; people will go back but they need some time. When? This ‘when’ is not a time, it’s a status: when Mosul is liberated, when Mosul is secure, when the government starts moving towards reconstructing and trying to really make these places [Nineveh Plain] secure. Of course some people will stay in Dohuk and Erbil because they have made their life and started small businesses, but if concrete signs are given people will definitely return. We expect this to happen but I would say hopefully by the summer of 2017 we will be seeing people on the ground working, cleaning and trying to open institutions again.”

Concerning the retaking of Mosul, the Archbishop remarked: “We expect a hard battle. It will take time to convince the people living in Mosul that it is good for them to change the situation. We have to wait. We know that Mosul is one of the strongholds for ISIS and they are going to defend their position there until the last minute.”

acn-20161109-47927-bishop-warda-at-acnNotwithstanding the evident challenges ahead, for the displaced Christians in Erbil who were expulsed from the recently recovered region, the Chaldean Archbishop from Erbil observes: “There is hope. People thank God because despite a lot of difficulties at least today we are sure that our lands are being liberated. Finally, ISIS is being defeated; the Cross is victorious and finally this terrible evil [ISIS] is no longer there. People are celebrating Masses and prayers. Every day they are going to check on their properties in these villages. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of destruction: burned churches, some of the shrines were completely destroyed and a lot of houses were burned and furniture looted. We need time for reconstruction and to make these villages a livable again.”


Aid to the Church in Need: 43 % of the support given since 2014

Due to the fact that returning home will be not yet be possible: food, medicine, shelter and schooling for the IDPs in Erbil remain the first and biggest worry for the Archbishop: “People would say, if ISIS is gone the help is no more needed, they could say ‘go on with your life’ but we can’t.  The winter is coming. We need the help here until they can go back.”

Of great concern for Iraqi Christians is not only a possible delay in the liberation of Mosul and consequent postponement of the reconstruction of the villages, but also the possibility that new clashes and conflicts will arise in the area of the Nineveh Plain. The Archbishop said: “We have got the military part of this case but the political and social context is not yet settled. Christians are afraid that the borders of the Nineveh Plain will not be protected from political disputes. There are considerable fears that some people, some groups or parties will use the Nineveh Plains to make their position stronger.” Warda added: “This is why we need the international community to put pressure on all concerned parties and tell them: ‘Enough of wars, enough of violence, let’s have a period of peace also for these people who have been suffering and persecuted, who have experienced a severe genocide.”

Archbishop Warda thanked Aid to the Church in Need which according to his reporting has provided through the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese 43% of the total ongoing emergency aid for the IDPs in Erbil since the summer of 2014. “I would like to say thank you for your support, your prayers and your help. Without your help we would not be able today to speak about a possible return to the villages in the Nineveh Plain. Because of your help we still have Christian families in Iraq. I ask you to continue this support and to continue to pray and to continue to be a voice for the marginalized and persecuted Christians around the world.”


By Maria Lozano of Aid to the Church in Need International

Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Canadian office