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ISIS may be on the run, but Iraqi Christians 'are still afraid'
"We ask ourselves whether this was their way of telling us that they will burn us to death if we return,."
By ACN staff
NEW YORK (Dec. 8, 2016)—The Syrian 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.”
Archbishop Mouche in burned-out church, Qaraqosh, Nineveh Plain, Iraq; ACN photo