Christian charity expects 15,000 Iraqi believers to return home this month

A Christian charity is expecting up to 15,000 displaced Iraqi believers to return to the Nineveh Plains this month after the defeat of the Islamic State in the region. However, the increase in the number of returnees is pressuring organizations because of the looming task of repairing infrastructures and providing water and electricity for the people.

(REUTERS / Ahmed Jadallah)Iraqi priests hold the first Sunday mass at the Grand Immaculate Church since it was recaptured from Islamic State in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq. November 3, 2016.

Father Andrzej Halemba, the Middle East projects coordinator for Aid to the Church in Need said around 5,000 Christians have made their way back to Qaraqosh. In light of the expected influx of returnees to the Nineveh Plains, he said up to 10,000 school places could be made available in time for the start of the academic year next month, the Independent Catholic News relayed.

One of the reasons why a lot of Iraqis now want to leave Kurdistan is the political tension in the region ahead of the independence referendum scheduled for Sept. 25. He said the upcoming vote is a "factor of concern" for the Christians.

In addition, Father Halemba said the expected number of returnees is pressuring ACN and other organizations for the needed building repairs and the reconnection of electricity and water supplies. Despite the high temperatures in Qaraqosh, he said the people are determined to leave Erbil and return to their villages. So far, ACN has completed repairing 986 homes in Nineveh, but still has 12,000 more houses to work on.

Meanwhile, Chaldean Archbishop Habib Jajou told the Middle East Eye that the remaining Christian families in Iraq fear that a new ISIS could come to power. He accused Baghdad of failing to foster religious tolerance amid the years of sectarian war and said a lot of people have been brainwashed by the terror group.

For Archbishop Jajou, Iraq must do something to promote acceptance among all the Iraqis. He also said the education ministry must work extra hard to educate the people and acknowledge the country's Christian history instead of focusing on Islamic history.