Three years after ISIS swept into Iraq, this weekend the Iraqi Government officially stated that the terrorist group has been completely pushed out of its territory. Good news for Iraq, but the news is still not all good for Christians attempting to return to their villages and homes.
The ISIS invasion led to a reign of religious terror and repression as Islamic fundamentalists targeted Christian villages — destroying homes, sacking, burning and desecrating Christian Churches and scared objects — and driving Christians into exile. An international coalition, formed by the United States, supported the Iraqi military in defeating ISIS and driving the terrorists from the country.
But now, as victory is declared, problems remain for Iraqi Christians. Returning to villages savaged by ISIS they find their homes in shambles, furniture destroyed, anti-Christian graffiti on the walls, unable to even enter until houses are cleared of bombs and booby traps. Christian businesses have been the victims of aggressive vandalism, interiors ravaged, inventory thrown on the floor, despoiled or burned. The churches suffered even more vicious savagery…pews burned, altars desecrated, vile ani-Christians polemics covering the walls…the beautiful icons, statuary and even crucifixes attacked and demolished.
Unfortunately, even as Christians, in an extraordinary display of the strength and resilience of our Faith, begin the arduous task of rebuilding, they continue to face persecution and intolerance. Some Christians returning home have found their homes and businesses given to Muslims supporting Government factions. U.N. funding for reconstruction has been diverted from Christians. Even U.S. funding supposedly directed to help Christian and other religious minorities has been slow to arrive or has been given to other groups.
Fortunately, President Trump and Vice President Pence are dedicated to seeing that steps are taken to move U.S. funding from the U.N. to independent organizations dedicated to helping Christians. On our part, Solidarity with the Persecuted Church is working every day, squeezing every single penny our generous donors give us, to work with individual parishes, priests and individuals to help rebuild Christian churches, villages, homes and lives.
The Iraqi Government has announced that the war is over. But the battle for religious freedom, and work to help and protect persecuted Christians in the Middle East goes on. Join us, as we work to aid our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq. Together, we can keep our Faith strong in this cradle of Christianity.