Catholic prelate of Mosul is relieved ISIS is being driven out of the city and
from the Nineveh Plain, but he said that enormous challenges continue to
confront Iraqi Christians.
Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche told
international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that Christians are still
afraid of returning to their villages. He said that it was “unclear” who would
ensure their safety in the liberated villages and that he felt “betrayed” by
the Iraqi government.
Despite the fact that ISIS is
“finished” militarily and has been driven out of the region, the ideology of extremist
Islam is keeping a grip on the country, the archbishop charged. He cited the
example of the murder of a Christian seller of alcohol, last October, two days
after Baghdad declared ban on alcohol for the entire country.
The archbishop also reported that
Christians were “shocked” to discover that about 75 percent of the homes in the
liberated Christian villages on the Nineveh Plain had apparently been burned
down by local Muslims who had remained there following the ISIS takeover of the
territory in summer 2014.
“Why did these people, with whom we
were associated, do this? We ask ourselves whether this was their way of
telling us that they will burn us to death if we return,” the archbishop said,
adding: “We are afraid that we will have to continue to live with these people.
We impatiently awaited liberation, and many wanted to return immediately, but
there first need to be guarantees for our safety.”
Nonetheless, the prelate expressed
his “great joy” that, now after liberation, there is at least the possibility
that Christians can return to the Nineveh plains one day and “continue to bear
witness for Christ in our own country.”