There is complete devastation in many villages in Iraq and considerable damage in others, following jihadism. This is seen especially in those churches where the terrorists’ rage had one objective: to completely eradicate a Christian presence in the Middle East.
To stop the diaspora and for Christians to return to their homes on the Nineveh Plains, the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need has come up with a kind of “Marshall Plan” to rebuild that which barbarism has sought to destroy. More than 13,000 homes, schools and churches have been completely, or partially, razed.
In Rome, the principal actors involved in this project met with a clear purpose: to explain that for a person to return to his home, he needs not only a roof where he can take shelter but also safe conditions, so that he does not have to flee again. They further declared that in Iraq, Christians must not be recognized or tolerated as a minority, but rather as citizens with full rights.
CARD. PIETRO PAROLIN
Secretary of State
“The Holy See, therefore, continues to reaffirm the importance of safeguarding the presence and the rights of Christians by means of adequate juridical instruments. The right to return to this place, the persons and refugees, under adequate conditions of security, respect for religious freedom and, above all, the importance of applying the concept of citizenship, which entails equality of rights and obligations.”
The Holy See is closely following this reconstruction which will cost an estimated $250 million. It will also be necessary to respect the international and national laws which recognize that Christians who have had their property taken from them, have, by law, the right to recover them.
Expert in Human Rights
“Article 44 of the Iraqi Constitution says, ‘Each Iraqi has freedom of movement, travel, and residence inside and outside Iraq. No Iraqi may be exiled, displaced, or forbidden from returning to the homeland.’”
However, along with the material reconstruction of homes and churches, there is a fundamental issue which must also be repaired in these lands: coexistence. In order for this to happen, Christian and Muslim representatives must work together to make Iraq an united nation, which is capable of rising out of the ashes brought about by ISIS
FR. ANDRZEJ HALEMBA
Director, Marshall Plan
“It will be much easier to renovate the houses [that have been] burned, bombed, destroyed, but to renovate the hearts of the people, to reconcile them; this will be a job, and this requires a Marshall Plan of spirituality.”
Little by little, the zone is being revived again and reconstruction will also offer new jobs. Despite the fragile situation, more than 1,400 families have returned to their homes to prevent Christianity from disappearing from the lands where Thomas the apostle evangelized during the first century.