Iraq: ‘ISIS tried to eradicate us, but failed’

Iraq: ‘ISIS tried to eradicate us, but failed’ A Catholic church destroyed by ISIS militants in Karamdes, Iraq, is examined by a priest following the predominantly Christian town's liberation. Photo: CNS


Ten years after being driven from their homelands by Islamic State (ISIS) militants thousands of Christians have returned to houses in the Nineveh Plains which have now been rebuilt, according to Aid to the Church in Need Ireland.

During an online conference organised by the Catholic charity, Nizar Semaan, the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Adiabene in Northern Iraq, said: “Words cannot describe what we experienced 10 years ago, ISIS tried to eradicate us, but they failed. The people here are like olive trees. You can cut them, burn them, but after 10 or 20 years they will continue to give fruit. They tried everything, but we remain, and as a Church we do everything to give a sign of hope.”

Though outright violence has receded in Iraq, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda, who also took part in the conference, said that the current threat of a regional conflict involving Israel, Hamas, Lebanon and even Iran has Christians on edge, as they are aware that in these situations, they often become outright targets for fundamentalists or collateral targets in the wars of others. These divisions also continue to manifest in the political sphere. “The tension is high between certain parties, very high, and it gives you the impression that something might happen that you have to be careful about, and be well prepared, but right now we have not seen that conflict become violent,” Archbishop Warda said.

The Syriac Catholic archbishop confirms that ISIS itself no longer poses a serious threat to the Christian community but tackling the mentality that gave rise to it is another question.