giovedì, luglio 20, 2017


Statement on Nineveh Plain

It is unfortunate that the attempt to put a hand on the towns of the Nineveh Plain, through public or concealed struggles is imposing a negative influence on the native people of this land. This sort of “Control / Invasion” is taking away the indigenous legitimate rights, provokes them to emigrate or forcing them to exclude the idea of returning back to their homes.
In spite of the reassuring speeches repeated by Government Officials about respecting the self-determination rights of Christians, the practices on the ground are irritating and disturbing. Most likely by making decisions on their behalf, while the fair solution is to; listen to the voice of indigenous people; respect their right in choosing the right person for the right place at the right time; and consolidate their expressions. As a Church, we confirm that we are fully united with our people in their suffering, fears and hopes.
Therefore, we appeal to politicians and officials to reinforce their decisions with the insight of recognition, rationality and to listen to the indigenous people of every town in the Nineveh Plain. We would like also to maintain the joy of combating ISIS (Daesh) by involving wise representatives of these towns in making civilized decisions, whether for changing administrations or drawing a specific future map for the region, especially that the vision at this period of time is “blurry” and circumstances are confusing.
On the other hand, it is inappropriate to hear suspicious statements from Christians, who are not from the region, yet publicizing different and contradictory calls. As a result, we call them all to preserve and hold onto their values, roots and ethics of good neighborliness inherited from their honorable civil history.

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Patriarcato caldeo. Piana di Ninive: ascoltare la popolazione autoctona.

By Baghdadhope*

Questa mattina, come riportato da Fides, centinaia di abitanti della cittadina di Alqosh, nel Kurdistan iracheno, hanno manifestato la propria protesta per la rimozione del sindaco cristiano della città decisa dal Consiglio Provinciale di Ninive.
Assenti alla manifestazione, lo testimoniano le foto pubblicate dal sito, erano i rappresentanti delle chiese locali che non hanno mancato però, almeno nel caso di quella caldea, di far sentire la propria voce.
Il sito del patriarcato caldeo ha infatti pubblicato a proposito una lettera aperta.
Di seguito la traduzione e l'adattamento dall'arabo di Baghdadhope:
"La lotta nascosta o palese per imporre la propria autorità sulle città della Piana di Ninive cui stiamo assistendo è triste perchè non rispetta il volere ed i legittimi diritti della popolazione spingendola ad emigrare o a non fare ritorno alle proprie case. 
Le ripetute dichiarazioni ufficiali circa il rispetto del diritto della popolazione all'autodeterminazione sono rassicuranti ma la loro messa in pratica è causa di preoccupazione.  
Le decisioni vengono prese per conto ed a nome della popolazione mentre bisognerebbe ascoltare la sua volontà, rafforzare la sua voce e rispettare il suo diritto a scegliere la persona giusta per il posto giusto al momento giusto. Come Chiesa noi siamo pienamente in unione con la popolazione nelle sue sofferenze, paure ed aspirazioni.
Per queste ragioni ci appelliamo ai politici ed ai responsabili perchè prendano le loro decisioni con discernimento, e perchè diano ascolto alla popolazione del posto con il coinvolgimento dei suoi rappresentanti più saggi sia nel caso di cambio dell'amministrazione che in quello del disegno della mappa futura della regione, specialmente in questo periodo di poca chiarezza e di confuse circostanze così da non offuscare la gioia della vittoria sull'ISIS.
Siamo rattristati inoltre dalla voci sospette di cristiani che non vivono nella regione e dai loro appelli diversi e contraddittori e per questo chiediamo ai nostri figli di mantenere saldi i propri valori della tradizione e delle proprie radici così come quelli di buon vicinato rispettando così la loro storia di civiltà ed onore radicata nel tempo."

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Christians in Baghdad: A Church Behind Concrete Walls and Barbed Wire

By Open Doors
July 19, 2017

Automatically we tend to think of those tens of thousands of Christians who were living in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain and are now living as displaced persons somewhere in the Kurdish area of Iraq. But how are the Christians doing elsewhere in Iraq? For example, those living in the capital Baghdad? Until 2003, this place was where most of Iraq’s Christians were living. We visited the city and were surprised by the dedication of the small flock that remained:
How is the situation now in Baghdad for Christians?
All of the pastors and priests agree on this: life is very hard and very difficult. They share the same fate as the rest of the inhabitants. Bombs explode almost daily, killing people from all religious backgrounds. When driving around the city, you see military and police checkpoints everywhere. There are walls topped with barbed wire protecting the buildings and churches against the blasts.
“We suffer from the same things everyone else does,” explains Pastor Joseph. “We want to be with the people. The violence is everywhere. The persecution is everywhere.”
Father Thair adds to this: “Security is a very big problem in Baghdad. I don’t think anyone can help with that. The only thing keeping us here is our faith. In that hope, we remain with the church.”
How terribly wrong things can go for Christians became clear in 2010 when terrorists climbed the wall around the Catholic cathedral and entered with explosives and arms. They killed two of the priests, shooting them through their heads, and killed 43 other Christians attending the mass. The church honors the martyrs with their names on the colorful windows around the church and in a special place containing a small exposition of items commemorating that bloody day. What can one do other than pray to God that this will never happen again?
How do the Christians in the city respond to the situation?
“All are thinking about leaving and are preparing to leave Iraq. It is very difficult, but we are working to give them hope,” says Father Afram. He discovered that organizing activities for the people makes a big difference. “People have nothing to do. They go to school or work and then return home. That’s it. Some people tell me, ‘You are giving us hope. You give us something that makes us happy again. This church almost closed, but it is once again full.”
Pastor Joseph: “We like to be like a Menorah. We’re a small group. We trust in our God. He can use us. We see that everyone is seeking peace, love and hope. We as a church are sharing about the ultimate source of these things. When they hear us talking about this, they listen.” Father Martin, a priest who transferred from Karamles in the Nineveh Plain to Bagdad recently went with his whole congregation to the place where a bomb exploded in front of an ice cream shop. They went to show their solidarity with the victims, despite the danger.
How do the leaders of the churches see the future of the church?
“I believe the future of the church will be with the Muslims who now wish to convert to Christianity. A Muslim who becomes a Christian has good faith and tells others about Christ,” shares an anonymous believer. He continues: “If the government would be open to this, our country would change. Many Muslims would become Christians or atheists. But our constitution points to Islam as the first and best religion of our country.”
We hear in the Middle East of converts from a Muslim background. What about in Baghdad?
“We have new blood, born-again new believers,” says Pastor Joseph. “That is a challenge. It brings a new culture to the church. Recently, a man converted. He is married to three wives and has children with all three of them. He asked me what he should do. I told him to keep them, what else could I say? This is only one of the problems we face with new converts.”
“About 45% of my church now comes from a Muslim background,” says another anonymous church leader. Another leader says that he sees a great hunger among the Muslims to know more about Jesus: “The future of the church is with the Muslims.”
Another church leader adds: “People are impressed that Christians come to them, show them love and support them when they are from another religion. This is especially significant because their fellow Muslims fight them and even want to kill them.”
Will the church remain in Iraq?
All pastors and priests have seen the number of Christians in Baghdad declining because of migration and immigration. “I recently heard the patriarch say that emigration won’t stop, but he also told me that Christianity in Iraq won’t stop either. He thought that those who remain will have a big impact on the society. I agree with the patriarch. I think we should be optimistic about the future of the church. With IS, another pressure came upon us as Christians, but God uses this pressure. We are now reaching out to others and see new people coming into the church.”
Another pastor adds: “Iraq without a church? That will not happen. When you look at history, there has been persecution of the church throughout the centuries. The church has always come through the difficulties. We know that God is in charge and is leading.”

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Cittadini del villaggio cristiano di Alqosh protestano contro la rimozione del sindaco

By Fides

Centinaia di cittadini di Alqosh, cittadina a maggioranza cristiana della Piana di Ninive, hanno partecipato al corteo di protesta che questa mattina, giovedì 20 luglio, ha attraversato le vie centrali del centro abitato per manifestare il proprio dissenso contro la repentina rimozione del sindaco locale, disposta nei giorni scorsi dal Consiglio della Provincia di Ninive.
La manifestazione è stata indetta congiuntamente dai militanti del Partito Comunista iracheno e dal leader locale del partito Zowaa (Assyrian Democratic Movement). La folla di manifestanti, come mostrano le foto diffuse da, ha gridato slogan di protesta, portando con se bandiere dell'Iraq e striscioni con scritte in arabo e inglese. Una delegazione dei manifestanti ha avuto un incontro con il presidente del locale consiglio comunale, il quale ha riferito che all'origine della rimozione del sindaco e di altri membri dello stesso Consiglio ci sarebbero accuse di corruzione.
I critici della misura di rimozione ritengono che tali accuse siano strumentali, e molti di loro (vedi Fides 19/7/2017) vedono dietro la disposizione presa dal Consiglio provinciale di Ninive un disegno per rafforzare nell'area il peso politico delle forze filo-curde, anche in vista del referendum indetto per il prossimo 25 settembre dal governo della Regione autonoma del Kurdistan iracheno per proclamare la propria indipendenza dal governo centrale di Baghdad.

Gli abitanti cristiani di Alqosh, in buona parte, sono ancora lontani dalle proprie case e ospitati come rifugiati nel Kurdistan e in altre aree mediorientali, dopo essere stati costretti a fuggire nell'agosto 2014 davanti all'avanzata delle milizie jihadiste dell'autoproclamato Stato Islamico (Daesh).

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mercoledì, luglio 19, 2017


Now that Mosul is liberated from ISIS, will Christians return?

John Burger

Iraq’s prime minister, Haider Al-Abadi, after declaring the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State, urged Christians to return to the country’s second largest city.
Al-Abadi on July 10 called on “all displaced people and the sons of religions, nationalities and creeds [to] come back, including Christian brothers in particular, to their homes in Mosul” because “the natural response to Daesh is to live together.”
But, three years after most of Mosul’s Christians fled the Islamic State group’s takeover there, will they trust the situation enough to go back from their places of refuge in northern Iraq? One Christian activist doubts it.
“The liberation of Mosul applies just on the military level. It is under the control of the Iraqi government by now. But it doesn’t mean Mosul is liberated from the mentality, ideology, behavior, environment of Daesh,” said Father Emanuel Youkhana, using the Arabic slang for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. “In the city of Mosul there is still the environment and the culture and the mentality and the ideology of Daesh, which was present in Mosul before it was occupied by Daesh in 2014, and will stay in Mosul after the liberation on the military level.”
Father Youkhana, an Assyrian priest who runs the Christian Aid Program of Northern Iraq, spoke on the sidelines of a July 14 United Nations conference in New York on religious leaders’ role in combatting ideologies that can lead to atrocities.
“No Christian, no Yazidi will go back to the city of Mosul,” he said. Even before ISIS controlled Mosul, Christians were systematically attacked in the city, he said, noting that after 2003, Christians and their churches were paying money to Islamist groups who were controlling Mosul.
Father Youkhana said he visited the Assyrian Cathedral of St. Mary in Mosul in the wake of the city’s liberation. The cathedral is in a Muslim neighborhood, and is being used as a garbage dump, he said, in spite of the fact that Mary is a revered figure in Islam.
“And now, after three years of Daesh controlling every detail of life in Mosul, the feeling toward non-Muslims is even tougher, more radical,” he said. Once things settle down, Christians will return to claim their properties—only to sell them and move elsewhere, he predicted.
“Unfortunately, the 2,000-year old Christian town of Mosul, I would say with deep pain, is over,” he stated. “There is no single Christian or Yazidi young person who will go to study in a university in Mosul. There will be no Christian or Yazidi woman who will go to give birth in the hospitals in Mosul. What are the alternatives? There will be no Christian or Yazidi who will go to market his products from Nineveh Plain from his farm in Bashiqah or whatever, to go to the market in Mosul. They will not risk. So what are the alternatives?”
If Christian internally-displaced persons stay in Iraq, he said, they are more likely to settle in the historic Christian towns of the Nineveh Plain nearby, particularly in the northern part, which has been retaken by the Peshmerga, the Kurdish militia, and is controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, which enjoys a degree of autonomy in Iraq.
“This is stable, and people are going back to places like Tel Eskof, Bashiqah, Bahzani, all these Christian and Yazidi towns,” Father Youkhana said. The southern part of the region, he added, which includes the Christian towns of Bartella and Bakhdida, is controlled by the Iraqi army and Shi’ite militia. “People are returning, but there are questions: What will be the future of them? Who will be in charge of security? What will be the administrative structure of Nineveh Plain?”
Father Youkhana argued for the establishment of a Nineveh Plain Province, “so that people can be convinced that they are not monopolized and not controlled by Arab Sunnis, to convince them that they are home and they have their future there.”
Meanwhile, 10 aid agencies are collaborating in the Nineveh Plain Reconstruction Project, to rebuild homes in towns and villages that have been recovered from ISIS occupation.
“There are seven or eight towns that were mainly Christian,” said Edward Clancy, of Aid to the Church in Need USA, one of the participating agencies. “Currently, there are about 95,000 Christians left from the 300,000 that fled from the Nineveh Plain. We’re doing our best to help them return to their homes.”
An Aid to the Church in Need analysis earlier this year found that there are about 13,000 homes and about 400 church properties in one of three states: those that have minor damage; those that are burned but still standing, and those that are completely destroyed. “The engineers estimated it will be about $250 million to repair or replace all the homes,” he said. “We don’t have the survey estimate on the church properties yet.”
Clancy said the Churches and the hierarchy are encouraging people to return to their homes. Most Christians IDPs in and around Erbil are no longer living in camps but in rented apartments, subsidized by the Church and aid agencies. But funds will dry up eventually. He said the Archdiocese of Erbil has found through surveys that people are leaning more and more toward returning to their towns and villages. In 2016, less than 5 percent said they would like to return. In April or May of this year, after the liberation of Nineveh Plain towns and villages, 41 percent said they wanted to return, and 47 percent said would consider it.
“Once there’s enough population [in the towns and villages], others will consider it,” Clancy predicted. “There will be a community there, the Church will be functioning, there will be schools.”
Hani El-Mahdi, the Iraq country representative for Catholic Relief Services, said that CRS has started to see some of the Christian IDP families moving back to the Nineveh Plain.
“They’re not huge numbers so far, but we are observing what will happen over the summer, particularly with the areas declared to be liberated,” El-Mahdi said. “They are still in need of massive assistance because they are returning to villages and towns that still need infrastructure assistance to rebuild their houses.”
El-Mahdi said that some areas on the Nineveh Plain are contested by the KRG and the central government in Baghdad, “so there’s a lot of anxiety for the long-term future. People need stability and safety to go back to those areas. This is contingent on reaching a lasting political agreement between the Kurdish government and the central government.”

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«Mosul è stata liberata dall’Isis, ma i cristiani non possono tornare senza sicurezza»

By Tempi
Leone Grotti

Dopo oltre due anni di dominazione jihadista, la seconda città più importante dell’Iraq, Mosul, è stata liberata dall’esercito regolare il 9 luglio, al termine di due mesi di guerra feroce. I cittadini in festa ripresi dalle televisioni di tutto il mondo, che sventolano la bandiera irachena per le strade, fanno da contorno a una situazione umanitaria disperata: la città è ridotta a un cumulo di macerie e oltre 750 mila residenti sono fuggiti senza sapere quando potranno tornare. Per ricostruire solo le infrastrutture principali di Mosul serviranno miliardi di dollari. Dopo la liberazione, il primo ministro iracheno Haidar al Abadi ha dichiarato che «i membri di tutte le comunità etniche e religiose, compresi i nostri fratelli cristiani, devono tornare nelle loro case a Mosul».
L’appello è stato molto apprezzato, ma servirà un grande lavoro perché i cristiani ritornino a Mosul e nei villaggi della Piana di Ninive: «Prima di tutto bisogna garantire la sicurezza, altrimenti sarà impossibile», dichiara a monsignor Basilio Yaldo, vescovo ausiliario di Baghdad.
Eccellenza, che cosa significa per l’Iraq la liberazione di Mosul?
La notizia è stata accolta con grande gioia da tutti gli iracheni, ma soprattutto dai cristiani, che in maggioranza provengono da questa antica città.
La sconfitta dell’Isis è la fine dei problemi dell’Iraq?
Di una parte sicuramente, ma non di tutti. Nelle città manca ancora la sicurezza, ad esempio, e il governo iracheno dovrà dimostrarsi forte e indipendente. 

Il paese sembra sempre più diviso: i sunniti contro gli sciiti, il Kurdistan che terrà a settembre un referendum per l’indipendenza. L’Iraq rischia di spaccarsi?
La divisione purtroppo è solo una questione di tempo e credo che ci sarà presto. Del resto, viene preparata con cura e strategia da 14 anni. Il terreno è già pronto, psicologicamente e geograficamente.
Nel 2003 vivevano 1,5 milioni di cristiani in Iraq. Oggi?
Siamo rimasti in 300 mila, forse 400 mila e tanti sono ancora costretti a vivere nei campi profughi nel Kurdistan.
I cristiani vogliono tornare ai loro villaggi o hanno paura?
Come Chiesa caldea stiamo aiutando la gente a ricostruire le case andate distrutte in vista del ritorno. Già più di 300 famiglie sono rientrate nel solo villaggio di Teleskof. Speriamo che tanti altri li seguano. Però…
Abbiamo bisogno di sicurezza, servizi sociali e sanitari, acqua, elettricità. Adesso non c’è più niente nei villaggi riconquistati all’Isis. Non solo. Molti cristiani non si fidano più dei loro vicini musulmani, perché tanti di loro si sono uniti ai jihadisti quando sono arrivati nei villaggi. Bisognerà ricostruire il rapporto.
Il governo ha promesso di aiutarvi a ricostruire?
Sì e speriamo che mantengano le promesse: molte volte in passato siamo rimasti delusi dal governo. Ma la Chiesa non aspetta e ha già preso l’iniziativa.
Sperate in un aiuto anche della comunità internazionale?
L’Iraq ha bisogno del sostegno internazionale per ricostruire il paese, non può farcela da solo. Ci vuole un intervento a livello mondiale ma noi cristiani iracheni speriamo soprattutto nell’intervento di Dio, che può cambiare ogni situazione. Ecco perché vi chiediamo di pregare per il nostro paese e per la pace, soprattutto per i popoli del Medio Oriente che stanno soffrendo immensamente in questo momento.
Il periodo più buio per i cristiani iracheni è passato?
Speriamo di sì, ma il futuro non è chiaro, è ancora fosco.

 Tutti i cristiani fuggiti all’estero in questi anni faranno mai ritorno in Iraq?
Quando ci sarà davvero la sicurezza torneranno. Già prima dell’instaurazione del Califfato islamico molti iracheni avevano deciso di abbandonare il paese, ma il nostro patriarca Sako li ha sempre incoraggiati a rimanere perché crediamo che la nostra missione sia testimoniare il Vangelo in questa terra martoriata.

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Rimosso il sindaco cristiano di Alqosh. La Piana di Ninive sempre più “area contesa” nel mirino degli indipendentisti curdi

By Fides

Con una inusuale procedura d'urgenza, il Consiglio della Provincia irachena di Ninive ha rimosso il sindaco di Alqosh, cittadina della Piana di Ninive storicamente abitata dai cristiani, e lo ha sostituito con un dirigente politico locale vicino al Partito Democratico del Kurdistan (PDK). La rimozione è stata disposta da Bashar al Kiki, a capo del Consiglio provinciale di Ninive, anche lui membro del PDK.
La notizia ha suscitato preoccupazione e reazioni negative tra le comunità cristiane autoctone e tra gli abitanti cristiani di Alqosh, in buona parte ancora lontani dalle proprie case e ospitati come rifugiati nel Kurdistan e in altre aree mediorientali, dopo essere stati costretti a fuggire nell'agosto 2014 davanti all'avanzata delle milizie jihadiste dell'autoproclamato Stato Islamico (Daesh).
I non molti cristiani già tornati ad Alqosh hanno anche protestato pubblicamente contro una decisione che diversi osservatori interpretano come una conferma dei disegni coltivati sulla Piana di Ninive e su tutta la Provincia omonima dal governo della Regione autonoma del Kurdistan iracheno, quello che ha indetto per il prossimo 25 settembre un referendum indipendentista con l'intento di proclamare la secessione unilaterale dall'Iraq.
Politici cristiani iracheni, come il parlamentare Yonadam Kanna, Segretario generale del Movimento democratico assiro, in recenti interviste hanno denunciato pressioni e operazioni politiche di forze regionali sulle minoranze locali - compresi i cristiani – per spingere anche le popolazioni della Piana di Ninive a sostenere la futura indipendenza del Kurdistan iracheno. La prospettiva indipendentista del Kurdistan viene respinta dal governo centrale di Baghdad, ma intanto Falah Mustafa Bakir, il capo del Dipartimento per le Relazioni Estere del Governo Regionale del Kurdistan, si è appena recato in visita a Washington per spiegare ai suoi omologhi statunitensi che "un Kurdistan indipendente è una soluzione, e non un problema".

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martedì, luglio 18, 2017


Mosul, un regalo alla chiesa dei profughi

11 luglio 2017

Il volto di Gesù benedicente nella luce del tramonto, sereno e dal sorriso pieno di pace. Mosè ed Elia di fianco a lui. E, sotto, gli Apostoli, colpiti, finanche interdetti e scapicollati davanti all’evento prodigioso. C'è creta in tutto questo, mani di scultore ed acciaio in una struttura metallica creata per sostenere il tutto. È una Trasfigurazione: cinque formelle di ampia superficie, per un’altezza complessiva di oltre due metri, nate in Veneto e destinate a Mosul, la terra del sangue, della speranza. Sembra un film, ma è tutto vero, una luce che rischiara l’orizzonte.
Ogni storia ha un luogo, dei protagonisti, dei moventi, un finale. Quando si parla di Iraq, l’insieme di queste categorie assume contorni speciali. All’inizio di questa c’è padre Jalal Yako, sacerdote iracheno, missionario rogazionista, responsabile per due anni di un campo profughi a Erbil, dove tutti (o quasi) da Mosul, Qaraqosh, Qaramles e Bartallah sono fuggiti per l’arrivo delle truppe del Daesh, nel 2014. Cristiani e sciiti, in macchina, a piedi, correndo in pigiama. 
Padre Jalal, nativo di Qaraqosh, aveva la possibilità, in quei giorni di sangue, di rientrare in Italia alla casa madre del suo ordine. Eppure non ha lasciato la sua terra ed ha assunto la responsabilità del più grande campo profughi allestito a Erbil dalla Chiesa cattolica in collaborazione con la Chiesa caldea e la Caritas Iraq. Un rifugio nel deserto, per milleottocento persone.
Passa un anno. Nell’estate del 2015 un gruppo di artisti che frequenta una comunità monastica, la Fraternità di Gesù di Piandellevro, in Trentino, che segue e accompagna la missione di padre Jalal, riceve dall’Iraq la richiesta di creare e donare alla comunità cristiana di Erbil un presepe in terracotta per la “chiesa” dei profughi. Realizzato per mano della scultrice Oriana Sartore, grazie a Emanuela Centis, docente e divulgatrice d’arte, il presepe con Maria, Giuseppe e Gesù, giunge a Erbil nell’autunno del 2016: le statue in terracotta, alte più di 70 centimetri, vengono accolte dalla comunità in festa.  
Ma questo è ancora solo l’inizio della storia. Durante l’estate 2016, ancora presso la comunità trentina dove è ospite per qualche tempo, padre Jalal incontra per la prima volta il gruppo di artisti. Nasce una nuova idea, ancor più impegnativa: realizzare una pala d’altare per la Chiesa dei profughi, dedicata alla Trasfigurazione.
È Oriana Sartore a raccontarlo: «Nessuno aveva organizzato nulla per questo incontro e quando, senza che io lo conoscessi nonostante avessi già realizzato per lui quel presepe, è venuto a sedersi alla mia sinistra per il pranzo nel refettorio, ho capito che quello era un segno. Ci siamo salutati alla partenza, parlando della distruzione delle loro chiese a Mosul, Erbil e Qaraqosh per opera dell'Isis, e io ho sentito che venivo nuovamente chiamata ad un impegno importante. Padre Jalal mi ha detto che voleva continuare a rimanere in quella terra, che voleva testimoniare il dolore davanti alla distruzione e restare con i cristiani di lì, nella chiesa dedicata alla Trasfigurazione dove però non c’erano riferimenti all’episodio evangelico del monte Tabor. Gli ho detto subito che avrei fatto qualcosa per loro».
Nel frattempo, il 17 ottobre 2016 le forze dello Stato iracheno, insieme alle milizie cristiane della Niniveh Protection Unit, lanciano l’offensiva per liberare la città di Mosul. Tre mesi di combattimenti e nel gennaio 2017 tutta la piana di Ninive, la vasta area a Nord-Est di Mosul, conosciuta come "la patria dei cristiani", viene riconquistata.
I cristiani ritornano nelle loro città, ma le case sono distrutte. La cattedrale dell’Immacolata Concezione ha i muri anneriti dalla fuliggine, i banchi rovesciati e rotti, parti del tetto sono crollate, ma la sua struttura è ancora fieramente in piedi.
Il 31 ottobre monsignor Petros Mouché, arcivescovo siro-cattolico di Mosul, Kirkuk e di tutto il Kurdistan, accompagnato da quattro sacerdoti celebra la prima Messa nella città liberata.
Mentre accade tutto questo, tra preoccupazioni e speranze, il lavoro per la Trasfigurazione prosegue. Oriana lavora, mentre Emanuela con alcuni amici di Padova si impegnano a cercare i fondi per la creta e per il forno dove cuocere le formelle. Il supporto di un team universitario è fondamentale per creare un supporto di acciaio, che possa anche smontare facilmente. Nel frattempo, anche un pittore toscano, Flaminio Zullo, si conivolge con un’icona della “Madonna della Tenerezza” da aggiungersi alle formelle di Oriana.
Passano i mesi: la Trasfigurazione è finita. In un giorno di fine giugno a Villa Del Conte, nel padovano, dove vive Oriana, le formelle sono protagoniste delle prove finali prima del grande viaggio: le figure in altorilievo (più di 70 centimetri per oltre 50 l’una, e pesanti fino a 20 chili) di Gesù, Mosé, Elia, Pietro, Giovanni e Giacomo vengono montate sulla struttura. Ora gli Apostoli “osservano” sbigottiti, con Pietro che sembra scivolare dall'emozione, rappresentato quasi a testa in giù. Gesù, sereno, dialoga con Elia e con Mosè, che gli offre le scritture. Un’opera per la chiesa provvisoria di Erbil, ma che è, in fondo, per la Chiesa stabile ed eterna.
Emanuela Centis
, quando commenta la storia di questa nascita artistica: «Attraverso l’incontro con padre Jalal la realtà dei cristiani perseguitati in Medioriente, che vivono nel coraggio della “speranza contro ogni speranza”, è diventata per me una cosa concreta e familiare. C’entra con il mio stesso vivere la fede cristiana nella vita di tutti i giorni. Prima ancora di domandare aiuti materiali, questi fratelli chiedono di non essere dimenticati. E questo bisogno è una domanda al mio cuore, non ai miei averi. Nella storia di questi anni ha sempre destato in me un grande stupore il rendermi conto che l’arte è un aspetto della presenza di Gesù tra noi. L’Isis ha fatto scempio dei luoghi sacri e delle immagini devozionali. Ma, anche attraverso l’arte, si può risorgere. E le mani di un artista possono davvero essere al servizio della Bellezza».

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Camp opened for ISIS families in Iraq amounts to collective punishment, rights

By Rudaw
July 13, 2017

The first "rehabilitation camp" for families of alleged ISIS members opened in Iraq this week. A human rights monitor said the camp “violates the laws of war.”
According to a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday, the first rehabilitation camp for so-called “ISIS families” opened on July 9 in Bartella, 14 kilometers east of Mosul, where Iraqi security forces have already forcibly relocated at least 170 families.
“Iraqi authorities shouldn’t punish entire families because of their relatives’ actions,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW. “These abusive acts are war crimes and are sabotaging efforts to promote reconciliation in areas retaken from ISIS.”
On June 19, the Mosul District Council issued a directive ordering the establishment of special camps that ISIS families were to be sent to in order to “receive psychological and ideological rehabilitation.”
The goal is to reintegrate these families back into society once camp authorities confirm they have responded to rehabilitation efforts.
Bartella camp is managed by local authorities but receives funding from the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
HRW visited Bartella camp on July 11 and stated that the residents being held there were mostly women and children from west Mosul as well as the Tel Afar area.
Residents of the camp complained of being held against their will and that they had not been accused of any wrongdoing themselves. The accusations against them were that they had relatives linked to ISIS. They had no idea when they would be allowed to leave.
HRW reported that the camp had a mobile medical clinic, but very limited humanitarian services or resources. They also stated that the camp was lacking any education, training, or other programs to “rehabilitate” camp residents.
Medical workers at the camp said that at least 10 women and children had died either en route to the camp or after arrival, mostly due to dehydration.
The rights group observed that despite the fact that the majority of the camp residents were women and children unaccompanied by male relatives, the Mosul emergency police unit securing the camp lacked any female police officers, raising concerns of vulnerability to gender-based violence.
Camp officials also said that there were at least 20 children under the age of 12 who were unaccompanied by adult family members.
Nineveh province officials told HRW that the camp was the first of many that authorities intended to construct and was established to house at least 2,800 families. Officials were already in the process of bringing in ISIS families from other camps and areas for screening.
A special committee for screening residents has been established and if it is confirmed that residents do not have any relatives linked to ISIS, they would be released immediately. Officials noted that some families were already released within the first two days of the camp opening.
HRW had previously reported the displacement of some so-called ISIS families due to forced evictions carried out by tribal authorities in some villages, many of whom had also been the target of threats or attacks by local residents. Iraqi security and military forces have done little to stop the abuses and in some cases, participated in them.
In Qayyara last month, Rudaw reported on local residents taking matters into their own hands to expel alleged ISIS members from their neighbourhoods with local officials supporting the victims’ demands.
The UN has warned against “collective punishment,” saying it is a contravention of the Iraqi constitution and international human rights law.
“International law requires that punishment for crimes only be imposed on people responsible for the crimes, after a fair trial to determine individual guilt. Imposing collective punishments on families, villages, or communities violates the laws of war and amounts to a war crime,” HRW stated.
HRW stressed the importance of reconciliation within communities which should be supported by local and government authorities to welcome individuals back into their homes.
If authorities cannot ensure the safety of families due to threats of revenge attacks, these families should have the freedom to relocate to camps or other areas where authorities can provide adequate protection.
“The camps for so-called ISIS families have nothing to do with rehabilitation and are instead de facto detention centers for adults and children who have not been accused of any wrongdoing,” Fakih said. “These families should be freely permitted to go where they can live safely.” 

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“Campo di rieducazione” per le famiglie dei jihadisti allestito presso un villaggio cristiano della Piana di Ninive

By Fides

Dopo la conquista di Mosul, le forze di sicurezza irachene hanno trasferito in un “Campo di rieducazione” almeno 170 famiglie con componenti considerati affiliati all'autoproclamato Stato Islamico (Daesh). Il campo è stato allestito presso il villaggio di Bartella, proprio nell'area della Piana di Ninive dove si concentravano le comunità cristiane autoctone, prima di essere costrette alla fuga dall'offensiva jihadista dell'estate 2014.
Già lo scorso 19 giugno il consiglio distrettuale di Mosul aveva disposto la creazione di campi dove le famiglie sospettate di essere legate ai miliziani jihadisti dovevano sottoporsi a programmi di riabilitazione ideologica e psicologica per poi essere eventualmente reintegrate nel tessuto sociale
Il campo di Bartella, 14 chilometri a est di Mosul, è stato aperto il 9 luglio. Secondo i resoconti di Human Rights Watch, le operazioni di rastrellamento e deportazione dei nuclei familiari di sospetti jihadisti sono state caratterizzate da abusi e violenze, in una sorta di punizione collettiva che non fa distinzione tra i veri aderenti all'ideologia di Daesh e quelli che semplicemente si erano sottomessi al “nuovo ordine” imposto nei territori conquistati dall'autoproclamato Stato Islamico.
Il campo allestito presso Bartella può ospitare fino a 2800 famiglie. Secondo le testimonianze degli operatori umanitari che hanno potuto visitare il campo, finora esso ospita quasi esclusivamente donne, ragazzi e bambini, compresi molti adolescenti senza genitori. La struttura è dotata di un presidio sanitario, ma al momento è del tutto priva di servizi di assistenza psicologica e educativa per i minori e per le loro madri.
Bartella, conosciuta come un centro di tradizionale insediamento della comunità cristiana siro-ortodossa, è stata sottratta al controllo di Daesh nell'ottobre 216, e adesso a garantire la sicurezza del territorio concorrono anche le Unità di protezione della Piana di Ninive, milizia locale composta anche da molti cristiani autoctoni.

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lunedì, luglio 17, 2017


Scontro tra sedicenti “milizie cristiane” operanti nella Piana di Ninive

By Fides

Le unità di protezione della Piana Ninive (Niniveh Plain Protection Units, NPU) hanno accusato le cosiddette “Brigate Babilonia” di aver compiuto un'irruzione presso una loro postazione per sequestrare forniture militari e soprattutto per liberare sei dei propri miliziani, precedentemente arrestati con l'accusa di aver saccheggiato case private e chiese cristiane, compreso il monastero di Mar Behnam. L'episodio, avvenuto sabato 15 luglio nell'area di Qaraqosh, evidenzia il complicato momento attraversato dalla regione, dove operano eserciti e milizie di varia natura, decise a ritagliarsi uno spazio nell'area, dopo la sconfitta inflitta ai jihadisti dello Stato Islamico (Daesh) e la riconquista di Mosul.
Le Unità di Protezione della Piana di Ninive rappresentano un'organizzazione militare locale, formata in parte da cristiani autoctoni e costituitasi nel 2014 come milizia di auto-difesa territoriale.
Le cosiddette “Brigate Babilonia”, con a capo Ryan al Kildani (Rayan il caldeo), rivendicano anch'esse la loro etichetta di milizia composta da cristiani, anche se risulta documentato il loro collegamento con milizie sciite come le Unità di Protezione popolare (Hashd al Shaabi) anch'esse operanti nell'area. I “Leoni” delle “Brigate Babilonia” presentano se stessi come “cittadini cristiani addestratisi per difendere le città cristiane della Mesopotamia dai criminali terroristi stranieri dello Stato Islamico (Daesh) e dai terroristi provenienti da Paesi come l'Afghanistan, l'Arabia Saudita, il Qatar, la Tunisia, la Turchia, il Kuwait, la Libia e il Marocco”.
L'Agenzia Fides ha documentato in diverse occasioni la volontà del Patriarcato caldeo di marcare la propria distanza da gruppi armati attivi sullo scenario iracheno che cercano di rivendicare la propria affiliazione alle comunità cristiane locali. Nel marzo 2016 (vedi Fides 15/3/2016) il Patriarca caldeo Louis Raphael Sako aveva diffuso un comunicato ufficiale per ribadire che la Chiesa caldea “non ha nessun legame, né diretto né indiretto, con le cosiddette 'Brigate Babilonia', e con nessun'altra milizia armata che si presenta come cristiana”.
Il monastero di Mar Behnam, occupato dai jihadisti di Daesh nel luglio 2014 e parzialmente distrutto da loro nel marzo 2015, era stato ripreso dall'esercito iracheno e dalle milizie sciite nel novembre 2016.

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IMIS attacks NPU HQ to free 6 detainees accused of stealing artifacts

By The Baghdad Post
July 16, 2017

Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU) have accused Christian Babylon Brigades and other forces of the Iranian Militias in Iraq and Syria (IMIS) of assaulting their headquarters and confiscating their weapons to free six of the brigades' militiamen who have been arrested for stealing artifacts.  
This comes after clashes had erupted between the two sides on Saturday in al-Hamadaniya neighborhood in Nineveh Governorate. 
The six Babylon militiamen have been arrested for stealing artifacts of Nimrud, churches and monasteries in Qaraqosh area in Nineveh. 
The church has previously warned IMIS leaderships of these brigades' presence in areas populated by Christians, the Spokesman of the Assyrian Democratic Movement's media office Kaldo Ramzi said.
He added that IMIS leaderships, however, did not respond to the demands of Nineveh Plain's residents and political leaders.
Babylon Brigades is a Christian force that has been incorporated into IMIS, an assortment of militias led by the Iraqi government and their partners from the Iranian regime and Hezbollah.

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Cardinal hopes church's history of survival in Iraq will help its future

By Catholic News Service
Carole Glatz

To understand the current situation in Iraq — the evolving and complex conflicts there, and the fear and resilience of its Christians — one has to understand its past, which is often ignored or unknown in the West, said a former papal representative to the country.
“History is itself a victory over ignorance, marginalization and intolerance; it is a call for respect and to not repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Cardinal Fernando Filoni in his book, “The Church in Iraq.”
The book is also “a testimonial” to the victims of “the Islamic terrorism of ISIS,” he told the Christians and non-Christians he met when Pope Francis sent him as his personal representative to encounter and pray with these shaken communities that fled the Islamic State.
That brief visit in 2014 was a homecoming of sorts.
The Italian cardinal, now 71, lived in Iraq during a time of great tension and turmoil. St. John Paul II made him the apostolic nuncio — the pope’s diplomatic representative — to Iraq and Jordan in January 2001. Several months later, after 9/11, the United States administration started building pressure against Iraq, pushing for military action.
St. John Paul firmly opposed military intervention and, despite the fact that he sent peace-seeking missions to Washington and Baghdad, the United States attacked.
“Not even the stern warning of the saint-pope could deter President George W. Bush from his purpose,” the cardinal wrote. He said the day of the invasion, March 19, 2003, became “a very sad day for Iraq and for the whole world.”
The nunciature never shut down, not even during the airstrikes and occupation or the ensuing chaos of looting and revenge.
It was during his tenure there in Baghdad, which ended in 2006, that Cardinal Filoni went through the nunciature’s archives, which housed “a rich history” of documentation and letters, detailing the history of the Vatican’s diplomatic relations with Iraq and the establishment of an episcopal see in Baghdad in the 16th century.
“Naturally, this caught my eye,” he said, and the idea for a book emerged there in the wealth of material buried in an archive.
The book’s chapters take a historical overview of the church’s long presence in Mesopotamia, dating back to the time of St. Thomas the Apostle, and looks at how the expanding early Christian communities there evolved, faced internal divisions and challenges, and still shared their unique gifts.
Looking at the church’s journey in the past also made him realize: “This is unknown to us. And so I thought, writing a book that traced, especially for us in the West, the birth, the evolution of this history up to present day could be … of service to Christianity in the Middle East, particularly in Mesopotamia, which is suffering because of expulsions, persecution or discrimination.”
Published first in Italian in 2015, The Catholic University of America Press is releasing the English edition toward the end of July in the United States and in mid-August in the United Kingdom.
The cardinal spoke to Catholic News Service in Rome during an interview at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, where he has served as prefect since 2011.
The book looks particularly at how minorities and the country as a whole suffered invasions, despots and Western hegemony, and yet tenaciously held on to its cultures and religious identities.
“In order to defend their identity within this great sea of Islam, Christians had to withdraw into themselves, keeping their own language, which dates back to the time of Jesus, that is, Aramaic,” he said. While, over the centuries, the everyday spoken language developed into different dialects, the liturgy still maintained the original form of ancient Aramaic, he added.
Even though Christians held on to their traditions and culture, they were “truly open” and didn’t ignore the world around them, learning and speaking Arabic, for example, he said.
This kind of everyday contact between Christians and their Muslim neighbors also led to a sharing of ideas, influence and mutual respect on the local level, Cardinal Filoni said.
For example, he recalled when he lived in Baghdad, he visited a church dedicated to Mary in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood.
“I was astounded by the fact that the walls of this church were dirty” with what looked like handprints smudged everywhere, he said.
When he asked church members, “‘Why don’t you clean this?’ They said ‘No! Because these are the signs of the Muslim women who come to pray to Mary, mother of Jesus, and as a sign of their prayer, they leave an imprint of their hand.'”
Since Mary is revered by Muslims, he said many expectant mothers visit this church to pray to her for protection.
“This influence, for example of Mary, in people’s daily lives” and similar devotions to prayer, fasting and charity, fostered closer relationships, mutual respect and understanding between Christians and Muslims, he said.
“A modern Iraq, full of history, of possibility and responsibility — not least because of its huge oil resources, which continue to be a source of discord, jealousy, envy, and oppression — should be defended, helped, and supported more than ever,” the cardinal concludes in his book.
While the primary responsibility for allowing Muslim, Christian and other minorities to return to their country and help build its future belongs to Iraq’s three largest communities — Shi’ites, Sunnis and Kurds — the rest of the world is also “in some way responsible for this crisis,” he told CNS.
“We all have to assume responsibility to rebuild, which is very difficult, because once people emigrate, they very rarely go back,” he said. “But if we can still preserve the coexistence of these even small communities (that remain), this will benefit peace, which is essential so that Christians don’t keep leaving behind this ancient land so rich in culture, tradition and history.”

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Middle Eastern Christians Propose a Safe Haven in Iraq

By National Catholic Register
July 15, 2017

In the very land from which Christianity was born, the Faithful have suffered terrible, unspeakable oppression, blatant discrimination, torture and holy martyrdom at the hands of those who reject peace and love.
Now, that the failed "ISIL" is in rapid retreat, having unleashed untold suffering on the region and deaths over the past three-years, plans are in the work to keep the remainder of Christians in the region safe from more unsolicited, gratuitous violence.
A high-level European Parliament meeting in Brussels, entitled "A Future for Christians in Iraq" discussed the possibility of offering the remnant of Christians who have withstood one of the worst threats to the Faith's existence since its inception.
Representatives of the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac Christian political parties produced a position paper which outlines their desire to establish self-governance.
On January 21, 2014, the Iraq Council of Ministers approved a plan to establish three new provinces in Iraq. One province would be in Fallujah, in central Iraq; a second would be in north Iraq, in Tuz Khormato; the third would also be in north Iraq, in the Nineveh Plain. This last region would be a safe haven for persecuted minorities including Christians.
A few months after this meeting, Islamic terrorist organization "ISIS" invaded Mosul, Iraq's second largest city claiming it as the capital of their new capital in the misguided attempt at reviving a "caliphate" which had been disbanded in the early part of the 20th century by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), the President and Founder of the modern Turkish state. Atatürk is also known for engineering and/or encouraging the Armenian Genocide which slaughtered two million Christians, including a great number of Catholics. Historians label this attack as the 20th century's first genocide and served as the inspiration for the Shoah.
A few weeks after this fateful meeting, the Nineveh Plain, which that had the largest population of Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs, was also invaded. ISIS had threatened to completely eradicate Christianity in Iraq, as well as other religious and ethnic minorities such as Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkmens. The Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga abandoned the Nineveh Plain. Hundreds of thousands fled the area, which was completely emptied in just a few days. Others were kidnapped. Children, both boys and girls, were sold as sex slaves. Elderly Christians, non-combatants, children, pregnant women were raped, enslaved, forced to apostatize and mercilessly slaughtered in the name of a religion of peace while the secularists of the world looked on with apathetic bemusement. Admittedly, many governments around the world, including the European, British and U.S. Congress, have acknowledged that the persecution fulfills the UN resolution criteria for genocide.
Charlie Weimers, chief of staff for Member of the European Parliament Lars Adaktusson, a Swedish representative, organized the recent event. He also led an expliratiory committee to some recently liberated towns and villages of the Nineveh Plain the delegation drove back to Ankawa, outside Erbil, to meet representatives from political parties of Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs Christians.
"They supported the resolution which had passed in the European Parliament and they asked us to host an international conference to highlight the plight of victims of genocide," explained Weimers. "They all signed a letter; all the ten major Christian parties."
A week prior to the conference, the Assyrian Democratic Movement along with two other political parties along with two churches pulled out of the conference. The parties' organizers were accused of promulgating a "Kurdish agenda" and hoping to get "the Nineveh Plain annexed to the Kurdistan region of Iraq". The accusations were based on a draft of the policy position paper.
The overwhelming majority of the attendees to the conference wholeheartedly agreed that the only viable solution for Christians in the region was a self-governing province. They referred to the Iraqi constitution and the right to establish a region in the Nineveh plain with their own police force, security force, healthcare and education and justice system.
The Kurdish regional government's representative Hoshyar Siwaily, who also heads the foreign relations office of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), said in his speech that it's entirely up the people to decide whether they want to join KRG or self-govern within Iraq.
Adaktusson announced in his final presentation said, "Today, ISIS was declared defeated by the Iraqi government. This adds to this historical moment."
After the political parties present at the conference signed the policy position paper, Iraqi representatives invited Adaktusson to visit Baghdad in the fall and thanked him for having succeeded in making them cooperate and amend their final demands for the Nineveh Plain. They also voiced their mutual concern for those political parties which had pulled out of the conference hoping they will cooperate at a future time.
Representative of the Iraqi Government and the European Delegation for Iraq were both present at this conference.
Charlie Weimers, chief of staff for Member of the European Parliament Lars Adaktusson and a recent convert to Catholicism, spoke to the Register about the hopeful impact of this recent conference:
What is the state of reality for Middle Eastern Christians?
It is a very harsh reality for most of the Christians of the Middle East. In some cases, they find themselves stuck in the middle of conflicts between more powerful actors. This together with the persecution by islamist groups such as ISIS, the Nusra Front and Al-Qaida poses a grave if not existential threat. In Iraq, the amount of Chaldeans/Syriacs/Assyrians (Christians) has decreased from 1.5 million in 2003 to approximately 300,000 today.
What was your initial involvement with the process of assisting Middle Eastern Christians?
I attended Holy Mass at Syriac-Catholic cathedral in Baghdeda (Qarakosh) in the Nineveh plain directly after it was liberated from ISIS. I was close to tears when I saw the destruction of the church, it was burned and I recall seeing statues being used as target practice for ISIS fighters. They had decapitated statues, torn out eyes of angels and saints. It was horrible.
How did it get so bad for the Christians of the Middle East?
ISIS fulfilled their ideology that for a decade tried to eradicate both the religious and the ethnic existence of the Assyrian/Chaldeans/Syriacs. Churches and monasteries were destroyed along with ancient Assyrian and Babylon cities in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. They also destroyed Muslim (both Sunni and Shia) mosques and Yazidi temples. A full scale genocide took place.
What is the solution that your discussion group is considering?
The background is that the European Parliament last fall decided to support self-governance for Chaldeans/Syriacs/Assyrians and other nationalities of the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq. Ever since, we (the office of Lars Adaktusson MEP together with our partners) have been working together to support Iraqi Christian political parties and NGOs to establish an own roadmap for reconstruction, security and self-governance. Let me emphasize that this is far more than a discussion group. This is a serious political effort backed by the largest European political party (the EPP) as well as Members of European Parliament from all major political groups and major NGO's in the field. I should also add that in the US, there have also been efforts for self-governance such as the resolution on a "Nineveh Plain Province", tabled by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) with support from The Philos Project, In Defense of Christians and the Institute for Global Engagement.
How does one go about such a monumental task?
During a conference in Brussels hosted by Lars Adaktusson MEP together with co-hosts from all major European party groups, a majority of the Iraqi Christian parties negotiated a position paper that spells out how they themselves can contribute to the realization of the Iraqi government's decision of 21 January 2014 to make the Nineveh Plain a province/governorate. They stand ready to form an interim council and the NGOs have documented and put a price tag on the destruction of private property and business of all inhabitants of the area.
How do you propose implementing your plans?
The position paper, which can be downloaded from, signed by the seven Iraqi Christian political parties present in Brussels is in strict accordance with the Iraqi constitution. The constitution is federalist, and there is a legal path for Nineveh Plains to not only become a province/governorate, something that already has been promised by the Iraqi government, but also to become a region would the population want it. The Iraqi ambassador to the EU Dr. Jawad al-Hindawy, who was present at the conference on request by Prime Minister Al-Abadi, stressed during his speech the federalism of the constitution, and that de-centralization could go even further than establishing a province/governorate. The EU and the US could play a positive role in terms of pushing for equal treatment of all nationalities of Iraq, enabling a dialogue between stakeholders in northern Iraq as well as capacity support for local administrations and financial support for reconstruction.
What was the general mood among the participants in the conference you organized?
The conference ended with a standing ovations for the representatives who signed the policy position paper. These are those people who helped to implement the request for an international conference, the governments which supported it and Parliamentarian Adaktusson. The political parties also made it clear that they "don't want a Berlin wall in the Nineveh Plain" meaning that the parties who have signed will not accept the region to be split between Baghdad and Erbil. Admittedly, Fawzi Hariri, the personal representative of Iraqui president Barzani, KRG, opposed the press release that was read. He claimed that he was disappointed with it since KRG wasn't specifically thanked saying, "The Iraqi government will not do anything for you, so yes we are disappointed with the wording. If you are willing to make a statement and thanking the Iraqi government you should also thank the Kurdistan regional government."
What are the considerations of infrastructure, including a self-defense force for the proposed new province?
In order to avoid any confusion, it is important to stress that the Iraqi constitution provides for the establishment of geographical (not ethno-religious) provinces/governorates, which could be compared with US counties. All nationalities of the Nineveh Plain, such as Chaldeans/Syriacs/Assyrians, Armenians, Yazidis, Kaka'i, Shabaks and others would thus be part of a local self-governance. The higher level is the establishment of a region, which could be compared with a US state. A region has the constitutional responsibility for police, security forces, and guards of the region, which would make it possible for the nationalities of the Nineveh Plain to organize self-defense within the framework of the Iraqi army. Please allow me to clarify that for the US audience the word 'state' means something else than for the Iraqi audience. Nowhere the signed position paper advocates for a new country. It asks for a new governorate/province in Iraq with the possibility to evolve to a region, all as defined in the Iraqi constitution. Actually before the ISIS invasion the Iraqi Government already made the decision to create such a Nineveh Plain province/governorate.
What is the involvement of the native Christians who would be the first beneficiaries of such a new province, in the discussions for such a proposed new entity?
The position paper that states the demands for a Nineveh Plain Governorate and later a region is the product of seven of the Iraqi Christian political parties. We have been merely facilitators to ensure that their demands are heard and understood by the EU and US.
What problems do you hope such a new structure would solve or at least address?
Although IDPs and refugees have moved back to some of the Christian villages, it is also clear that many want security guarantees in order to take their families back to their homeland. I believe that many would be more encouraged to return if security could be provided for the people by the people of Nineveh Plain, within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.
What is the proposed size of the population for such a new province?
The administrative and geographic basis should be based upon the 1957 general census. This is actually also defined in the Iraqi constitution. The position paper does not create new borders, it refers to the existing districts in Nineveh Plain. I assume that the first and major group of inhabitants will be the people driven away by ISIS and who want to return.
Is there any consideration as to a name for this proposed region?
"Nineveh Plain Region" is the name used in the position paper of the political parties.
Is there United Nations support for such a venture? Are there other international organizations such as NATO, EU or others that have expressed an interest in supporting such a project? Have there been any naysayers such as OPEC or the Arab League? Have there been any response from Islamic terrorist groups?
The position paper is so recent that formal reactions from the bodies and groups mentioned above are yet to be seen. From our side, we will support this position paper by trying to gather as big an international coalition as possible in support for this. We believe that we as friends of the people of the Nineveh Plain need to push both for urgent financial support for reconstruction and a long term solution that secures equal rights for all nationalities of Iraq.
What can US Catholics and other Christians do to help this venture?
There is one major thing US Catholics and other Christians can do. They can stand up and demand that the US Administration will initiate a donors' conference for post-war relief and reconstruction for groups who the President himself has labeled as victims of genocide. Time is running out as Christian families are leaving Iraq every week. Moreover, they can urge the US to finally cooperate directly with a united body of the existing security forces of the Chaldean/Syriac/Assyrians of Nineveh Plain such as the NPU, NPF, NPGF and Dwekh Nawsa. We really need to stand up that the US ensures that these people get the security they need and trust. If we don't stand up for their security as a fundamental human right we fail to support them as they will not feel safe enough for the rebuilding and return. The position paper precisely outlines how this security cooperation could be realized.
Do you have any anecdotes as to the process by which this proposal has come about?
One thing I will I think never forget is how we entered the recently liberated areas in Nineveh Plain and were part of the first Holy Mass led by the Syriac-Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Yohanna Petros Mouche. For me to receive Communion in that desecrated yet re-consecrated cathedral of Qaraqosh was one of the most impressive experiences of my life and keeps me motivated to help this plan become a reality.

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