Iraqi Christians begin church restoration campaign

Basra, Jul 24, 2008 / 07:35 pm (CNA).- Christians in the southern Iraq have begun a campaign to restore churches which have been rendered unusable due to war and neglect.

Father Imad Aziz Al Banna of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Basra told Iraqlaan News Agency that the local Christian community has requested government funding for the restorations and is collaborating with the Ministry of Planning and the Basra Governorate Council, reports.

Built in 1880, one of the oldest churches in southern Iraq, the Chaldean Church of Um Al Ahzan (Our Lady of Sorrows), recently reopened. Father Al Banna celebrated a special Mass and baptism there on June 29, reports.

It presently serves only 18 Christian families. In the whole Archeparchy of Basra there are reportedly only one priest, two permanent deacons, and two religious sisters among 2,500 of the faithful.

Father Al Banna said there is confidence among Christians that the government can preserve the Christian religious heritage in the area. Some families who fled the region have even returned because of the new security situation.

The Christian community in southern Iraq dates back to the fourth century and reportedly was the launching pad for the spread of Christianity to the territories of the Persian Gulf.