Iraqi Christians Rebuild Churches

VATICAN CITY, JULY 29, 2008 ( The Christian communities of southern Iraq launched a campaign for the restoration of churches that have been damaged due to negligence and the war.

The news, published by the “BaghdadHope” Web site, was given by Father Imad Aziz Al Banna, of the Archdiocese of Basra of the Chaldeans. He explained that the local Christian community requested that the government finance the project. The community is working in cooperation with the office in charge of non-Muslim groups, and other government ministries.

The priest mentioned the recent reopening of the church of Um Al Azhan in Al-Amarah, and expressed his confidence in the preservation of the Christian religious heritage. He affirmed his hope that the present security situation will encourage this initiative, which he said is urgent since some Christian families who fled southern Iraq are now returning.

The church, built in 1880, was restored. A Mass and baptism were held there, celebrated by Father Al Banna at the end of June.

Although less numerous than that of Baghdad and northern Iraq, the Christian community of the nation’s south has ancient roots which, according to Syro-Orthodox Father Sam’an Khaz’al, date back to the 4th century.

Although only 18 Christian families live in the area now, and despite the present difficulties in the southern provinces, there is a monthly Mass celebrated in the church, and summer courses are being held there.

An article in L’Osservatore Romano explained that the number of places of worship “destroyed or damaged during the war or in the course of attacks against local dioceses” are “countless.”