First of all, I would like to express our gratitude to those who have helped us survive. My special thanks go to the Hungarian Government for the donation of two million euros. This amount, which was aimed at supporting the return of the inhabitants of Telsqof on the Niniveh Plateau, has enabled over a thousand families to go back to their homes.
The period of June to August 2014 saw huge losses among minorities. 120,000 Christians got brutally attacked, as a consequence of which they had to flee from the villages of the Niniveh Plateau and the city of Mosul. Invaluable monuments, buildings and documents were destroyed. Homes got burnt down for only one single reason, and it is religion: Christianity. The invading radical Muslims pulled homes to the ground, not sparing the monuments either. As a result of the Iraqi attacks, the number of Christians shrank from 1.5 million to a mere 500,000. We might agree that this was real genocide.
What is it like today? Several areas on the Niniveh Plateau are already out of ISIS control. Nonetheless, the region is still hit by the conflict between the Kurds and Arabic people. The Iraqi Army is present in Bakhdida, just like other armed force units and the Pesmerge. With the help of the Catholic aid communities and the Hungarian government, a number of homes have been restored and several families could move back.
People could get back to some villages. Owing to the Hungarian fund of two million euros, Telsqof and Baqubah could see the return of over 1,000 families. What is more, this coordinated work will not stop in the future either. Through collaboration with the Niniveh Reconstruction Committee it will help people to settle down again in the towns.
The principle goal is to stabilise the Christian communities so that these people should not have to leave the historical places. Their presence is a significant proof of peace, tolerance and forgiveness, which is really important in the region.
There is hope. However, hints of insecurity may as well be felt, especially as a consequence of the Kurdish referendum, which caused increased tension between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish regional government.
Dear Friends, however distressing it might be, new armed conflicts may emerge, bringing about fatal consequences for the minorities, who are definitely destined to pay the highest price. We, Christians, cannot assert our rights towards the governments because of the presence of the military. And those who could represent us are often too far away.
Should we have to face any new confrontation, it will obviously end in Christian exodus. No wonder then that people are in fear. They fear more war, more death, more destruction and more refugees. They are afraid because there is no stability and security. They would want to enjoy the everyday routine of the past and forget about recent ravages for good.
However, the question they ask each day remains: “what does the future hold?” There is no warranty for a better future. Emigration has had a great impact on the region and on the entire society of Iraq. An ancient, peaceful group of people is disappearing in front of our eyes, being chased away from their country for their religion.
How could we help? How could we make the tragedy end? The Christians in Iraq require well-defined special assistance in order to be able to return to their homeland and their work. The international community can no longer keep its eyes closed. It has to find efficient solutions with which it can provide immediate assistance. In addition, community members have to ask themselves the question sincerely: what else can they do for this cause?
The issue is especially relevant in the case of the United States, since its responsibility in the region’s situation is rather substantial.
Through the Hungarian aid, though, another path has been opened – that of reconciliation. Hungarian experience is particularly important and valuable, as regards the experience rooted in the past regime. Thus, in awareness of this all, we would like to ask for assistance in the following fields.
Primarily in the field of education. In several aspects, the Iraqi mentality is of a tribal type, which can lead to violence, murder, destruction and war. We would like to live in peace and harmony, respecting life – independently from ethnicity or religion. This, however, calls for significant changes in the education system. Violence and power are not a solution.
The second field is political support. The international community, and especially the United States, should commit themselves to cooperate with the Iraqi government and others in the matter of reconstruction and the assurance of stability. To this end, they should support the cause of a state that is democratic and has constitutional foundations, granting full citizenship to every resident – irrespective of their origin or religion, in order to live together peacefully.
Stability of the liberated territories underlies the third field. Immediate stability in areas that beforehand were under ISIS control is extraordinarily important in order to make possible for families to return home in a short time. Return is critical for the prevention of unfavourable demographic conditions.
Legal guarantees are indispensable for making sure that Christians may represent themselves in such regions in a legitimate way – no matter if they constitute a minority or majority. This will be of key importance in reconstruction, in rebuilding trust between the various nations and religions. At present, the Iraqi government has very little financial potential for the assurance of the above.
The fourth form of assistance should consist in humanitarian aid. Families need medical support. Job opportunities need to be provided so that people’s future is safe and allows a dignified way of living.
The fifth element takes us to defeating fundamentalism and terrorism. Such concerns must be understood by everyone. Being victorious over ISIS does not mean that all problems have been solved. The basic problem is the existence of such an extreme ideology. And this does not only hold for Iraq. That is why it is important that we cooperate so as to jointly eliminate this false concept. The ultimate solution might be based on the reformation of the education system and the creation of programmes, through which goals can be reached, parallel to living peacefully together.
Responsibility should be borne by the Muslim people too. They should update and overview their religion, or otherwise our future shall be loaded with conflicts and clashes.
We, Iraqi Christians love our country, with thousands of years of history. We would like to stay there and contribute to its rebuilding. We have a mission in Iraq. We are committed to remaining faithful to Christ. We will understand faith as a path with which we can realise the will of God to make us finally feel joy and enjoy happiness.
Thank you very much. God bless you all! May God bless Hungary!