It is with great excitement that we share the news that Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq (March 5-8) included a stop in the northern Niniveh Plains, where Malteser International is leading a large project to resettle Christians, and other religious minorities, displaced by the Islamic State (IS).
Ninewa Return Program in Iraq Restoring homes and prospects for returnees. Malteser International's reconstruction program is focusing on repairing damaged or completely destroyed homes, assisting small and medium-sized businesses to make a fresh start, creating jobs and vocational training centers, improving the school system, and promoting social cohesion and peaceful coexistence between the various ethno-religious groups.
The Nineveh (Ninewa) Plains stretch north and east from Mosul in northern Iraq and is home to various ethnic and religious groups including Christians, Yezidis, Shabak, Kakaes, and Muslims. When the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) took over Mosul in June 2014, a campaign of terror and persecution led to severe devastation in a number of villages and the mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from various ethnic and religious groups.
In late 2016, a military campaign to liberate the region led to further devastation. This and fears of hidden mines as well as a lack of future prospects have made it difficult for the displaced to return to their ancestral homes.
After northern Iraq’s liberation from IS in 2017, Malteser International launched a multisectoral program to support the return of displaced communities in the Nineveh Plains. More than 2,000 houses have been reconstructed or repaired, schools and kindergartens have been built, 35,000 people have benefited from income-generating initiatives, and more than 47,000 people have taken part in cultural and peace-building activities.
We hope that the Pope’s visit will call attention to the plight of our fellow Christians in the region. A mass will be held in the Kurdish town of Erbil on Sunday.
A Malteser International delegation led by Secretary General Clemens Graf von Mirbach-Harff, KM, will be in attendance.
For more information on Pope Francis’ visit and the Malteser International’s program in Iraq, please refer to our press release: https://orderofmaltarelief.org/blog/popes-visit-to-iraq/.