Iraq: “All the Christians have fled Mosul”

In 2003, there were 35,000 Catholics in Mosul, but none remain after attacks by Islamist terrorists

Iraq: “All the Christians have fled Mosul”

(Munich-Mossul, Kirche in Not) After the capture of the northern-Iraqi metropolis Mosul by Islamist forces, all the Christians who were still living there have now fled. The Catholic Archbishop of the city, Amil Shamaaoun Nona, corroborated this while speaking with the worldwide Catholic relief service Aid to the Church in Need. “All the faithful have left the city. Who knows whether they will ever be able to return,” Abp. Nona said. “In 2003 there were still 35,000 faithful living in Mosul. Three thousand were still there in early 2014. Now probably not one is left here, and that is tragic,” the Archbishop declared. The city of Mosul, with a population of three million, was already mentioned in the Bible as Nineveh, and for thousands of years it has been a place of Christian civilization.

Chaldean Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona of Mosul, Iraq, is pictured in an undated photo provided by Aid to the Church in Need.(CNS photo/courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need)

Archbishop Nona reported on the capture of Mosul: “We have never experienced anything like it before. A major city like Mosul has fallen victim to chaos.” The fighting, he said, began on Thursday, June 5; at first, however, it was limited to several districts in the western part of the city. “The army began to bombard the areas that were affected, but then the armed forces and the police suddenly left Mosul during the night between Monday and Tuesday, leaving the city at the mercy of the aggressors.” More than half of the inhabitants and the entire Christian community immediately fled to the nearby Nineveh Plain. “At around 5:00 on Tuesday morning we took in the families of refugees and tried to lodge them in schools, catechism classrooms and abandoned houses,” Nona reported. He is presently staying in the village of Telkef to the north of Mosul.

According to official statements, the attack was carried out by the terrorist organization “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS), which is notorious for its cruel assaults on the Christians in Syria. Archbishop Nona thinks, however, that other groups participated in the attack also: “We do not yet know which groups they were. Many people talk about the ISIS; others think that it might have been members of various groups. We must wait a while in order to understand the actual situation better. It is certain that the extremists are here. Many people have seen them patrolling the streets.”

Archbishop Nona asks the Christians in Europe for their help and their prayers for Iraq. “We continue to pray for our country, that it might finally have peace,” he explained. “It is not easy, not to lose hope after so many years of suffering, but we Iraqi Christians are steadfast and unshakable in our faith and have to keep our hopes up despite the persecution. After what has happened in recent days, that is an enormous challenge.”

Aid to the Church in Need supports the Christians in Iraq especially in the Kurdish autonomous region in the northern part of the country, to which most of the people have fled.

(Translated from German by Michael J. Miller)

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Michael J. Miller Michael J. Miller translated Priesthood and Diaconate by Gerhard Ludwig Müller for Ignatius Press and Eucharist and Divorce: A Change in Doctrine? for the Pontifical John Paul II Institute.