St Kyriakos Chaldean Catholic Church, Batnaya(Photo: Aid to the Church in Need)
A major restoration programme is underway in Iraq to rebuild a Christian village that was nearly completely razed to the ground after being occupied by Daesh (ISIS).
Batnaya was under occupation by Daesh for nearly two years, during which time altars were smashed and statues decapitated.
Buildings were graffitied with anti-Christian messages like: “Slaves of the Cross, we will kill you all. This is Islamic territory. You do not belong here.”
By the end of the occupation in 2016, Batnaya was a shell of its former self, with only one per cent of the 997 homes in the village still standing.
Around 300 people have since returned to Batnaya, but Aid to the Church in Need, which is overseeing the rebuilding work, hopes that more will now come back.
Destruction in Batnaya(Photo: Aid to the Church in Need)
The restoration programme includes extensive plans to rebuild the Chaldean Catholic parish church, the nearby chapel, parish hall, library, presbytery, Dominican convent and children’s nursery.
The scheme is being rolled out across 12 other Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains that were hardest hit by the Daesh occupation.
ACN Middle East projects director Father Andrzej Halemba said the programme was “a new and courageous step forward to secure the future of Batnaya”.
“Even if the situation is not very clear, we see the importance of a sign of hope,” he said.
“ACN is determined to help the Christians to stay. Our task is to stand by the people who would like to come back.”