Almost exactly nine years after hundreds of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes due to the occupation of their lands by ISIS, efforts to rebuild lives and infrastructure continue. Aid to the Church in Need has just helped complete one of these projects in the city of Dohuk, Iraq.
On August 6, 2014, the world watched in horror as ISIS jihadists poured into Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, forcing hundreds of thousands of Christians to flee their ancestral land to save their lives.
Many of those who managed to escape made their way to the relative safety of Kurdistan, settling mostly in Erbil, but also in other large cities in Iraq, such as Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk, and Dohuk. After ISIS was defeated, some returned to their villages, but a considerable number opted to stay where they are now considered home.
After a visit to Dohuk in March 2022, and seeing the needs and plans of the diocese first-hand, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) approved a support package that allowed the local Church to go ahead with construction and complete the project. The completed pastoral center was finally inaugurated on July 8, by the current Bishop Azad Shaba, who has led the diocese since 2021.
The ground floor of this new three-story building will be dedicated to diocesan activities, like Radio Mary, a listening center, the Mother Teresa Fraternity for the Poor and the Sick, a museum, and archives, as well as an office to receive guests. The first floor has halls for the activities of the Christian Education Institute and the diocesan school, among others. And the second floor will be a permanent residence for the bishop and eleven priests.
In a speech at the inauguration ceremony, Bishop Azad Shaba thanked his predecessor and all those who had worked on the project, as well as donors who helped make it a reality. ACN was singled out by the bishop for its contribution, which is just the latest in a long and fruitful history of cooperation with Christian communities in Iraq, and in Dohuk in particular.
ACN is committed to helping Christians in Iraq remain in their homeland and rebuild their lives, which were devastated by the ISIS occupation. For many of those who were forced to flee to Dohuk nine years ago, the new pastoral center is a sign of hope for a better future.