CP&S COMMENT – How pleasing it is to hear that in the suffering and besieged war torn Iraq a statue of Mary Immaculate, ‘help of Christians’, looks down once more upon her children from a church in the city of Qaraqosh.
On 14th January 2021, Christians in Qaraqosh, the most important Christian centre on the Nineveh Plain, in northern Iraq, celebrated the erection of a statue of the Blessed Virgin on the pinnacle of the steeple of the Syro-Catholic church dedicated to Mary. Quite a symbol, after the dark years of the jihadist occupation.
Terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) organization had occupied the region from 2014, torching the church and systematically destroying any Christian symbols they could find.
But after the fall of the caliphate, the structure of the church has been rebuilt in recent years, thanks to the efforts and commitment of the entire local community.
“The steeple of this church, the largest in the Nineveh Plain, was razed at the time of the reconquest, in 2016, by a missile or a bomb, we do not know exactly,” Fr. Paul Thabit Mekko, Chaldean parish priest of Karamlech, near Mosul, in northern Iraq, related to AsiaNews.
“Of the steeple,” the priest continued, “only a part remained, everything has been newly rebuilt, but with some innovation, because it was decided to place a statue of the Blessed Virgin on the pinnacle.”
Do not speak to Fr. Mekko of the church in Qaraqosh, the name the Ottomans gave to this locality: “We prefer to call it by its Aramaic name of Bakhdida, which means that it is dedicated to Mary Immaculate.”
The statue of the Virgin, which now dominates Bakhdida, was made by a local artist, Thabit Michael: “in our land which awaits the visit of Pope Francis,” explains Fr. Mekko, “evangelization also involves art, which is fundamental to maintaining our identity.”
For the moment, the situation today in the Nineveh Plain is calm: “there are many movements but nothing worrying,” said the priest of Karamlech. Even the pandemic has failed to interrupt the life of the Christian community, as it had done in many Western countries.
“For us,” concludes the Chaldean priest, “the concern of the moment concerns inflation and the rise of prices, which make the reconstruction effort much more difficult, and push the young people to leave, in the absence of clear perspectives on their future.”