The desecration of The Virgin and Child
Yakub’s story has some shocking details. We visited him in Qaraqosh, the Christian town in the Nineveh Plain 30 miles southeast of Mosul. ISIS used his large house as one of their operational bases. When we arrive, he is keen to show us around. He wants us to see the damage ISIS did in the three years they used his home.
On the stairs, a fresco of The Virgin and Child has been picked at with a sharp implement, a knife perhaps. The faces have been patiently gouged out by a zealous jihadi. For ISIS, such imagery is idolatrous and punishable by death. Yakub tells us he will not repair this holy image. Instead, it will serve as a reminder of what happened.
The Rebuilding of Qaraqosh
An estimated 100,000 people fled Qaraqosh in the summer of 2014, escaping east to Kurdish controlled territory. In the weeks that followed, atrocities took place. There were even terrible rumours that Christian children had been beheaded in the town. The rumours were never substantiated but there is still fear and anger here among the returning Christians.
Despite the damage done to his home and despite losing his business, Yakub is defiant: “Praise be to God, we have returned to this soil. We must return to our soil. It’s not possible for all the people to migrate. To whom will we leave this place? This is our effort and this is our soil. We came from this soil and we will die in this soil.”
The Christians have shown tremendous bravery and resilience, but they face a major obstacle. Businesses like Yakub’s have been destroyed and all their equipment stolen. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing this Christian community now is the lack of jobs. A vast reconstruction effort is already underway to rebuild homes, schools and churches. However, without jobs there is little hope that those who have returned can stay.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of any community. With this in mind, we are launching our new initiative – Nineveh SEED. This stands for ‘Sustainable Enterprise Economic Development’. It will include small business loans and training projects. We hope to roll it out over the whole of the Nineveh Plain region. The aim is to secure funding for some large projects from major philanthropists and government. If you would like to support this initiative or any of our other projects, please see the giving options below. Thank you!
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