Christians of Karamles: Christmas at home, a ‘new beginning’ after the barbarism of ISIS

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Giovial Maslob, teacher, speaks of the years of exile and the return home and to his place of birth.
KARAMLES: “This Christmas represents a new beginning for us. Of course, places and people can change, but the true and deep meaning of the celebration remains the same, even if returning to celebrate it in your home has a special taste and meaning “. This is what Giovial Maslob, 42-year-old Christian teacher from Karamles, tells AsiaNews. The small town is on the Nineveh plain in northern Iraq, long in the hands of the recently defeated Islamic State (IS, ex Isis). In the summer of 2014 he left his home – together with his wife Evit Elia, 29, and his sons Giuslin, 11, Giustin, 9, Giorgio, 5 years and Jesen, 2 – to escape the Caliphate militias . For three years he lived as a refugee in Duhok, in Kurdistan. Now he has returned to his homeland and is preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus with a particular joy.

The Maslob family is only one of the 270 Christian families to have returned to the Christian town of the plain of Nineveh, freed from the joint offensive of the Kurdish Arab militia. In recent months the (slow) reconstruction work has begun, thanks to the enormous effort made by the Church in Iraq. The community is entrusted to the care – pastoral and otherwise – of Fr Paolo Thabit Mekko, Chaldean priest of Mosul, who is preparing to celebrate Christmas with the whole community. Before the arrival of the Islamic State (IS) Maslob was a teacher in a school in the city.

Today he resumed his teaching activity, and to round off a very poor salary he works a strip of land owned by his family of origin, composed of his widowed mother Vivian, his sister Kaokab and his brother Giuri. “For each family – he tells AsiaNews – preparation for Christmas is very important. Of course, spiritual preparation is essential, but also the signs, the posters, the preparation of desserts and food become an essential moment.

These are beautiful days, because we can feel a profound sense of spirituality and simplicity”. These years as refugees, far from home, “have strengthened our faith,” says Giovial Maslob. Trust in Christ, he adds, “was our support, consolation and a source of courage while we were waiting to return”.

Today, he continues, “we can say that we have received the most beautiful gift: that of being in our home, in our land again”; the hope for the future is that we can speak of “peace, fraternity and security for all”. Asked about the future of Iraq, the Christian teacher stresses that “depends” on the country’s inhabitants. “Thanking God – he says – we have those who watch over us and do everything so we can live in peace in Karamles, in our city.

For the nation as a whole, we pray that the situation may be good and everyone can live in peace “. “We are optimistic and trust in God and in baby Jesus, the guarantor of hope for the future. And to our brothers who have decided to emigrate in these years – concludes Maslob – we wish them well, but we also want to remind them that Iraq is your land and needs you. Their return is essential to guarantee us a future, we need them too. “(DS)–Asianews