Erbil, Iraq, Jan 24, 2017 / 00:03 am America/Denver (CNA).
“I don't understand how people can harm each other so much,” sighs security guard Louis Petrus. Petrus recently returned to his hometown for the first time: the Christian city of Qaraqosh, near Mosul, which he had to flee in August 2014, when Islamic State captured the largest Christian city on the Nineveh plain.
He told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “Look at my house: it is damaged, most of my furniture has been stolen and my household effects are broken. Other inhabitants of Qaraqosh had prepared me for what I would find in the city. I had heard stories and seen pictures of the destruction caused by the jihadists. Now that I am seeing the city with my own eyes, I do not know what to feel. The terrorists have destroyed a lot of my possessions.”
Father Sharbil Eeso, a 72-year-old Syrian Catholic priest, also returned to the town, also known as Bakhdida. He found the seminary in shambles. In search of hidden treasures, the occupiers brought down ceilings and destroyed statues.
“We are not allowed to clear up the mess yet,” the priest said, adding that “first the damage needs to be assessed carefully and documented thoroughly, and that can only start when the city is safe. Last week, a jihadist emerged from the tunnel system which ISIS has built underneath the city. The army immediately shot and killed him: it was a 13-year-old boy.”
The jihadists made full use of the churches in Qaraqosh, even writing battle instructions on church walls. St. George’s Syrian Catholic Church was turned into a bomb factory; hundreds of bombs and grenades, in all shapes and sizes, are still lying there. There are also supplies of deadly chemicals, ingredients to make powerful explosives.