Bishop Moussa hopes to be able “to pray again in all the monasteries and churches that were destroyed.” Since 2003, the community has experienced a climate of insecurity that culminated in the rise of the jihadists. The building was used by the Islamic State to store weapons and make explosives. The slow path of reconstruction. The protest of the bishops of Nineveh against the electoral reform.
Mosul () – For 20 years, since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, “we have experienced all kinds of events”, including “murders, kidnappings and explosions”. Now, some time later, the situation seems to have improved at least in part “and as a community we are happy and relieved” to be able to celebrate mass again at Deir Mar Mikhael Monastery. These words of Hamid Tuzi, collected by al-Jazeerarecount the feelings and state of mind of a community, that of Christians in northern Iraq, who after years of violence and persecution return to live their faith, and above all, in their own land, with a mixture of joy And fear.
A traumatic time in its millennial history, which culminated in the summer of 2014 with the rise of the Islamic State and the great flight from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain towards Kurdistan, or abroad. Today, six years after liberation, only 50 families (out of a total of 50,000 people) have returned to their homes and the work to rebuild homes, places of worship and businesses is struggling to get off the ground, to the point that some still choose to for moving regularly from Erbil to wait for better times.
However, the mass celebrated in the Monastery of Saint Michael by the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Monsignor Najib Mikhael Moussa, accompanied by the Bishop of Alqosh, Monsignor Paolo Thabit Mekko, represents a milestone on the road to rebirth. “This liturgy”, stressed the prelate, “represents the beginning of the reconstruction of the monastery” that will take place “in the near future” and with it “the return of prayer” to a beloved place.
“Isis looted all the assets of the monastery, deliberately vandalizing and defacing them,” he added. The place of worship also suffered aerial bombardments, because the jihadist militants “used it as a refuge and warehouse to store weapons and manufacture explosives.”
For years, Christians in Mosul (and the Nineveh Plain) were unable to pray in churches and monasteries due to violence and a climate of insecurity. Both the partial reconstruction of some buildings, and the celebration of the divine liturgy in the monastery for the first time in two decades, are a new step towards stability, although there is still a long way to go. “We hope to be able to continue praying in all the churches and monasteries that were destroyed at the time,” Bishop Moussa stressed.
After 2003, Hamid Tuzi, 31, reiterated, “Christians used to stay at home for a long time and we didn’t go to places of worship because of the terrible security conditions and the threats Christians suffered […], who were often the target of attacks, for which they had to emigrate”. In the community, the memory of the bishop, Monsignor Paul Faraj Rahho, and of the seven priests -among them Father Ragheed Ganni- assassinated by the fundamentalists are still alive. Among those who emigrated is Ezzat Sami, 69, who now lives in Dohuk, in Iraqi Kurdistan, but often visits what was once the northern economic and commercial metropolis. to remember our deceased loved ones, my late father. Muslims -he added- shared joys and sorrows, we were brothers and we still are. The monastery guard is a Muslim. When we celebrated mass, the residents welcomed us with great joy.”
Finally, in the last few days, from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain came news of a vociferous protest by local bishops against the reform of the electoral law and the longstanding question of quotas for parliamentary seats reserved for minorities. The aim is not so much to claim seats as to guarantee ethnic and religious “pluralism”. If adequate measures are not taken to guarantee representativeness, the prelates grouped in the so-called “Council of Nineveh” do not rule out forceful initiatives, including boycotting the next round of elections.