The Islamic State has since been forced back from much of the territory it gained, including the Nineveh Plain and Mosul. “With the departure of ISIS as a meaningful military force, you have a lot of new opportunities, in terms of rebuilding and resettling, that you didn’t have six months ago, three months ago,” Walther said.
Now, however, many Christians have still not been able to return to their homes, which were vandalized, damaged, or destroyed by Islamic State militants. Their future is in question as they are currently living as displaced persons in Kurdistan. The situation is so bleak that local Church leaders are saying that if something is not done to remedy the problem, Christians could leave Iraq for good.
If that is the case, it would be an ideological victory for Islamic State, whose “program was the de-Christianization of Iraq, the total obliteration of any religious minorities,” Walther said.
Furthermore, with Christians gone, it could further destabilize Iraq by helping eliminate religious pluralism. “Christians are an enormous example of forgiveness, and they’ve been praised by imams in Iraq, by television commentators in Egypt, for this capacity of forgiveness,” Walther said.
And if the Christians have no more roots in the land where they have lived for centuries, a priceless cultural vestige could be gone as well.
The government of Hungary has already given $2 million to move around 1,000 families back to the town of Telskuf, Walther said, providing a working example that such a plan can be successful.
“We have a proof of concept, we know this can work, and we know that if it worked in Telskuf, there’s no reason that it wouldn’t work in a town also in Nineveh that is also predominately Christian that also has its population in Erbil,” he said.
The money would go to provide materials for Christians to repair their homes from the destruction that Islamic State inflicted. “The families are actually putting their own lives back together with a little bit of assistance,” Walther said. “The idea is to make these houses habitable.”
And although a goal of $2 million is lofty, it is entirely within reach if parishes and communities all over the world pitch in, Walther said.
“An individual can do this,” he said. “A prayer group can do this. 20 people put in $100, you can send somebody home. This is one of those things where people can do a concrete, tangible action that is a meaningful step in saving Christianity in the Middle East.”
“It’s a model that can allow Christianity to be transplanted back to where it was,” Walther said. “It’s an early step, but it’s an important step if Christianity is going to survive in Iraq.”
(Story continues below)
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