Some wonderful news from Iraq:
“We will celebrate Palm Sunday in Karamles, one of the towns in the Nineveh plain” occupied and devastated by the Islamic State (ISIS). The function will be held “in the church of Mar Addai, we’ve cleaned it up these days” (see photo) and “it will be broadcast live on Facebook,” says the Rev. Paul Thabit Mekko. The 41-year-old Chaldean priest from Mosul can barely hide his “enthusiasm, but also emotion” just days before the first celebration in the Christian town for three years now. “It will be a community celebration,” he adds, a community that meets again just at the eve of Passover. A real resurrection, but also the first Easter of liberation “from Daesh [Arabic acronym for the IS, or ISIS].
“I will concelebrate together with the Karamles,” says the Chaldean priest. He continues, “at least 10 buses are scheduled to leave from Erbil, for a total number of about 400 people.” These are people originally from “Karamles, who still live in shelters and rented homes” in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Added to these are “dozens people who come in private cars and means of transport.”
Father Paul is responsible for the refugee camp “Eyes of Erbil,” on the outskirts of the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where hundreds of thousands of Christians (along with Muslims and Yazidis) in time have found shelter following the rise of the ISIS. There still 140 families, about 700 people in all, with 46 mini-apartments in the camp and an area for the collection and distribution of aid, a nursery for toddlers as well as a kindergarten and a secondary school. Many of these refugees are from Karamles.
“In the last few weeks,” says Father Paul, “many people come to the town every day to fix up their houses, trying to make the area new, although it is currently not possible to predict a date for for the return.” In Karamles, adds, “the situation is still difficult. We have about 800 homes, 200 of which are burned, then another 90 have been completely destroyed; hundreds more are damaged for various reasons. The destruction is everywhere.”
Also, to watch the Palm Sunday liturgy on Facebook, visit this link.
Meanwhile, for more on the plight of Christians in Iraq, read “God Wants Me Here,” a web exclusive story in the March 2017 edition of ONE.