Nineveh reconstruction goes on

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ meeting the faithful in North Iraq

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ has just returned from a packed week in the Middle East, as part of a delegation formed by members of Aid to the Church in Need and representatives of the Bishops’ Conference in England and Wales.

The trip has been organised to show solidarity with the Christian community in North Iraq and to see the situation on the ground for what regards the reconstruction of towns and villages destroyed by Daesh. The hope is that the Bishops’ Conference will raise awareness of the current issues witnessed and pass then the message on to the government.

The key organisation for the reconstruction in Mosul and in the Nineveh Plains is the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, whose principle founder has been Aid to the Church in Need UK. The Committee is supported by the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and the Syriac Orthodox Church.

“On the last night, we have been at the ancient Mar Matti Monastery, high up in the mountains just outside Mosul,” Fr Dominic says as he describes the journey. “We have learned a great deal about the continuing tragedy in the Nineveh Plains and the reconstruction moving forward. I have been so much inspired by the people there who teach me what faith, hope and love is all about in the shadow of the cross.”

Fr Dominic has brought back some artefacts which were discovered in the rubble of destroyed churches and complexes pulled down by the terrorists. They are a piece of gravestone belonging to a smashed grave, a hand pulled off a destroyed statue, and several olives branches from the trees that have been replanted as a sign of hope.

The delegation visited the Christian village of Karmles, where most of the houses were destroyed. To date, half of them have been rebuilt. The local church was desecrated, partially burnt, and used as target practice. Now, it has being rebuilt, and, apart from some final additions, ready to be soon reopened.

“The artefacts from Karmles will be displayed in a cabinet in the Middle East Shrine in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, alongside relics of the English Martyrs,” Fr Dominic Robinson, parish priest at Farm Street, explains. “This is to make a clear connection between the persecuted church in England 500 years ago and the persecutions of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East today.”

More information on the situations in the region and the Church’s response to it, especially through Aid to the Church in Need, the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre, are available in the Shrine and on the organisations websites.