Iraq Devastation

People flee the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, Iraq Dec. 2. (CNS photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

The Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said he was horrified to see widespread devastation and what he called “ghost towns” during a recent visit to northern Iraq. He said by email that there was little left in some of the communities that he toured on Nov. 27-29 and that “the emptiness of the streets except for military people...the devastation and burned-out houses and churches” was shocking. About 100,000 Christians—among them more than 60,000 Syriac Catholics—were expelled from the Nineveh Plain by the Islamic State group in the summer of 2014 as the militants campaigned to expand their reach into Iraq. The patriarch met with the faith community, religious leaders and nongovernmental organizations to discuss the future of Christianity in northern Iraq. Based on “what happened in recent times,” the patriarch noted, “it was the overall opinion that none would dare to return, rebuild and stay in the homeland, unless a safe zone for the Christian communities in the Plain of Nineveh is guaranteed.”

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