Mosul’s second Christmas after its liberation from the Islamic State is a far cry from its past celebrations — the few churches that have been repaired remain empty.
Father John Botros Moshi — the Syriac Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Kirkuk and the Kurdistan Region — stands among the rubble of the Tahra Church in Mosul, Iraq, April 29, 2018.
MOSUL, Iraq — Christmas remains a sad affair in Mosul, a city that once hosted a lively Christian community, even two years after its liberation from the Islamic State (IS).
This is largely because most of the Christians who fled five years ago have not come back and few churches have been renovated to bring back the Christmas spirit of the past, Samer Elias, a Christian Iraqi researcher and writer, told Al-Monitor.
Elias’ book, “Mosul Churches, History and Pain,” which was published in November, documents how Mosul’s churches and other Christian heritage sites were destroyed by IS. Elias calls on the Iraqi authorities to allocate more financial resources for the restoration and reconstruction of these churches, pointing out that the current process is very slow.
“Only one church has been rebuilt in Mosul — the Chaldean Church of St. Paul in al-Muhandisin district. The reconstruction was financed by the Chaldean Patriarchate, in cooperation with an Italian institution. UNESCO is currently working on the construction of two churches in the western part of Mosul — the Dominican Fathers Church known as the Our Lady of the Hour Church, and the Syriac Immaculate Church,” Elias said.
But even the recently renovated Chaldean Church of St. Paul remains deserted during the festive season, as most of the Christian community still has not returned to Mosul.
The head of the Gilgamesh Center for Antiquities and Heritage Protection in Mosul, Faisal Jaber, told Al-Monitor that the Christians are hesitant to return because of the security situation. “Just the reconstruction of churches with no guarantee of stability is not persuading the Christians to return,” he said.
Jaber expressed concern about the current government’s policies toward the Christian heritage in general and misappropriation of Christian property in particular. He gave as an example the case of the Organized Crime Directorate at the Ministry of Interior’s intelligence service that uses Al-Nasr nunnery and neighboring monasteries as their headquarters.
He believes that the use of a religious site by a government security service without paying the owners rent further strengthens the fears of the Christian community that “the IS ideology” is dominant and the Christians are still a vulnerable minority.
Elias also spoke of other practices that cause both anger and anxiety among Christians, such as using destroyed churches as waste dumps or holding concerts there — both considered as unrespecful to the sanctity of places of worship.
In addition, the Christian church authorities do not give a single, unified message to the Christians on whether they can return.
Elias noted, “The Chaldean Church encourages the immediate return of Christians to Mosul, while the Syriac Orthodox community is calling for international guarantees for the return of Christians. Meanwhile the Syriac Catholic community — mostly based outside Mosul in the Ninevah valley — has largely responded to the demands of return.”
Christian leaders are aware of the complex situation and say they face repetitive questions by their community on whether it is safe to return. “Today we are all called to have a deep spiritual reading of the prophets’ texts and words, to discover the rich meaning in our faith and [to gain strength from what] we went through during IS’ occupation of our towns in August 2014. … Our homes were destroyed and we were displaced. We lived for over 3½ years in camps away from our towns. The towns were liberated in 2017 and the reconstruction process has begun, although it is a bumpy road filled with challenges,” Cardinal Mar Luis Rafael I Sacco told Al-Monitor.
Though he tries to motivate Christians to use the spiritual experience in the Old Testament to find strength, Sacco said he understood the hesitation to return. “The church cannot overlook the extent of the human suffering the displaced have gone through during the time of their displacement,” he noted.
On the political level, the cardinal expressed belief that the issue of return requires “a political consensus between the countries of the region and the central government as well as the Kurdistan Region.”
“Any demographic change is not acceptable because our properties and homes are neither for acquisition nor for sale,” he added.
Christians have come to realize that their return is a challenge that cannot be faced alone and requires coexistence with other communities in the region.
Based on this, the head of the Department of Endowments in the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs in the Kurdistan Region, Khaled al-Bir, stressed the need to preserve all religious heritage sites without any discrimination.
“The lack of financial resources for the reconstruction of the Ninevah churches is the first obstacle down this path. Therefore we seek assistance from international organizations and churches. The area is also home to other religious and ethnic minorities. We may be fortunate to receive aid for the reconstruction of churches, and therefore we ought to be wise enough to develop an approach for the reconstruction of the diverse religious heritage in the area, including the Islamic and Yazidi heritage sites that have also been destroyed,” Bir said.
This approach holds an important message, as it reveals that the rebuilding of churches is an integral part of the process to rebuild trust between Christians and the various components of the city. This also requires raising awareness among the city’s Muslim community about the importance of Mosul’s religious heritage, which is not associated with Christians alone.
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
Feb 02, 2020 0The remarks from the US official came in wake of the Palestinian decision to reject the administration’s peace plan. US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to...
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.