Baghdad – The structures of the former Chaldean seminary located in Dora, a suburb of Baghdad, were renovated in a short time to house displaced Christians from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain who had so far found refuge in the Iraqi capital, occupying the refugee camps that the population had begun to call “Camp of the Virgin Mary”. This is the practical solution devised by the Chaldean Patriarchate to face an emergency which recalls in many of its details and implications the hardships and sufferings experienced by the Iraqi Christian communities in the last two decades.
The families who will find hospitality in the structure rearranged by the will of the Chaldean Patriarchate (see Fides, 15/10/2022) had to flee in 2014 from Mosul and the cities of the Nineveh Plain, in northern Iraq. They had abandoned their homes and all their possessions before the advance of the jihadist militias of the self-styled Islamic State (Daesh). They had found refuge in Baghdad, in and around a building in the Zayouna neighborhood, in what had since come to be known as the “Virgin Mary” refugee camp. It was the commercial appetites of entrepreneurs and the urban development plans of the Iraqi capital that evicted them from their precarious residential accommodation. In recent months, the 120 Christian families had received the order to evacuate the complex that housed them, located on state-owned land. The order had come from the Baghdad Investment Direction. The justification for the provision referred to the fact that a shopping center will have to be built in that area.
In the first half of October, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako had visited the complex of the Virgin Mary to show his closeness to the families of displaced people and address their concerns.
The solution found was to rearrange and open to Christian refugees the structures of the former Chaldean seminary, located in the area known as “Makanik” in Dora, a southern suburb of Baghdad. That abandoned structure already a decade ago had welcomed displaced persons from other cities. Currently, a part of the families hosted there have emigrated or returned to their homes of origin, and a part of the structures was in a state of abandonment. In recent months, an extraordinary recovery and maintenance work carried out also thanks to the contribution of engineer Jinan Khader has made it possible to prepare the complex to welcome families “evicted” from the Virgin Mary refugee camp. The recovery and restoration works – the media of the Chaldean Patriarchate report – also involved the church of the former seminary.
Before the US military intervention in Iraq in 2003, at least 150,000 Christians lived in the suburb of Dora, mostly belonging to the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
The Chaldean major seminary was transferred in January 2007 for security reasons from Baghdad to Ankawa, a suburb of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. In the last fifteen years there has been an impressive exodus of the Christian population of Dora.
By Agenzia Fides