By Devin Watkins
Mosul served as the unofficial capital of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) from June 2014 until their expulsion in July 2017. The terrorist group left the ancient city in ruins, and depopulated.
Only a handful of the hundreds of thousands who fled their barbaric rule in the northern Iraqi city have returned.
Archbishop Najib Mikhael Moussa, OP, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, gave an overview of life in the city.
He told Vatican Radio’s Marie Duhamel that reconstruction efforts in the city are following an uneven path, given the destruction caused by ISIS.
Mosul is divided by the Tigris River. The locally-known Left Bank (east side) was left 20-25% destroyed. Many people were quick to return there and rebuild.
Today the area is “truly a living place”, according to Archbishop Moussa.
But the so-called Islamic State devastated 95% of the Right Bank (west side) portion of the city. Fourteen churches were completely destroyed, along with 4 monasteries, he said. Life there is far from normal.
Relations in ruins
The terror spread by ISIS also left a scar on inter-religious relations, and now many Christians are hesitant to return home.
“Many Christians have lost confidence in their neighbors”, due to the friction they see between different Muslim groups, said Archbishop Moussa.
“The situation is still volatile,” he said. So Christians prefer to put off returning home in hopes of a more stable peace.
Archbishop Moussa said the situation is not helped by the continuing political unrest in Iraq, where mass protests over the last 3 months have destabilized the government.
“People are still worried because the general situation in the country is not politically stable,” he said. “There is no justice, no law, only corruption.”
But stronger faith
The Archbishop said the Church cannot be silent, and works to protect those Christians who remain in Iraq.
“If we want Christians to stay in Iraq, we must help them to remain at home,” he said, calling for guaranteed housing and job placement.
Archbishop Moussa concedes that reconstruction in Mosul, and throughout Iraq, will be a long and difficult process.
“But today,” he said, “the faith of Christians in Iraq is much stronger than yesterday.”