The Christians of Qaraqosh, on the Nineveh Plain, celebrate the liberation of their town with Masses of thanksgiving, dancing and singing. Now in its third day, the Iraqi army and Peshmerga continues the offensive towards Mosul. The Islamic State use civilians as human shields. Mar Sako urges Iraqis to work for the birth of a "genuine and civil democracy".
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The hundreds of Christians who fled from Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, in the summer of 2014 with the rise of the Islamic State (IS) yesterday celebrated the liberation of their village with songs, dances and masses. The local community, who fled with only the clothes on their backs a little over two years ago to escape the jihadist violence, celebrated the military successes achieved thus far by the army.
On the morning of October 18, a coalition of 30 thousand men, mainly Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga militia, joined by Sunni tribal forces, began an offensive to retake Mosul, the jihadist stronghold in Iraq, and the Nineveh Plain.
US military sources report the fighters of Daesh [Arabic acronym for the SI] are using civilians as human shields, as the Arab and Kurdish soldiers get closer and closer to the city.
There are at least 700 thousand people trapped and unable to escape in Mosul, hostage to 5 thousand jihadists who are fighting in defense of their fort.
According to military sources involved in the offensive for the liberation of Qaraqosh, one of the most important villages of the plain, about 15 km south of Mosul, is not yet complete; several jihadists are still hidden in some homes, and do not intend to lay down their arms. However, for the Christians in exile it is already time to celebrate (pictured).
The Assyrian-Chaldean community in Iraq have posted photos and images of celebrations, with dancing and singing and there are videos of the celebrations of a group of refugees in a reception center in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan. Still others wanted to remember the event with a solemn Mass (click here for video). Dozens of children, women and men gathered to pray in the church of Mar Shimon, in Erbil.
The Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako has renewed his call for national unity for the success of this huge military. "We Iraqis - said the Chaldean Primate - are one in spite of our various affiliations”. He hoped that the offensive would give birth to a "genuine democracy and civilian" that is "respectful of all."
Here, below, we publish Mar Sako’s appeal shared with AsiaNews:
As you all know, a lot of effort is currently placed on the preparations for liberating Mosul (one of the most important historical cities in Iraq) and Nineveh Plain. Therefore, I would like on this occation to speak, from the bottom of my heart, to our Iraqi family as a whole and mainly in Nineveh, regarding our common concerns and worries under such difficult and exceptional circumstances. Especially, that the voices of division, inflexibility and break up began to rise, which may impede the operations of release!
I strongly believe that we “Iraqis” are one family, despite of our different affiliations. Though, the current situation demands from all Mouslians, as is the case for all Iraqis, to bear a complete historical, national and moral responsibility in, building a balanced internal and external relationships; avoiding accusations and blame; putting an end to disputes; wavering self and factional interests; and upholding Iraqis’ benefit before and above everything else. This way enables us to pave the actual path for a real communal reconciliation, love, peace, and the release of all occupied lands. So, we as Iraqis, can retrieve some confidence and hope for a quick solution to our long-standing dilemma, by the establishment of a genuine and civil democracy, that respects everyone in a peaceful and civilized means. This is the only way for our absolute recovery.
I also urge the international community to take concrete steps in order that Iraq and the region regain their security and peace. This kind of success would be a triumph for everyone and for the international well-being.
Finally, I pray: May God Protect us, Shorten our suffering, Preserve the purity of our human kinship and Watch over the unity of our beloved country.
*Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Community
Offensive continues to wrest the northern Iraqi metropolis from Islamic State. Kurdish militias have taken control of some villages in the Nineveh plain. Pentagon: conquest of the city" will take time". EU warns: the fleeing jihadists could fall back to the shores of Europe.
In a speech to the nation, Prime Minister al-Abadi said that "the hour of victory" against Daesh has "arrived." Only government and police forces will enter the city, once freed. At least 25 thousand soldiers participating in the operation. The risk of a new sectarian conflict. The United Nations express "extreme concern" about the fate of the 1.5 million inhabitants.
A 12 hour visit to six villages across 200 km, a source of "sadness and suffering," but also of "great hope". The goal is the "reconstruction" of the villages and the return of refugees. But first it is essential to ensure safety. Gratitude for the generals and the soldiers leading the offensive. The new call for peace and unity.
The rise of the jihadists has wiped out the "beautiful mosaic" of ethnic groups, religions, cultures and dialects that made Mosul and Nineveh Plain. Mar Sako: the defeat of the Islamic State should serve to relaunch this diversity. Necessary to guarantee rights and protections for all people, fight corruption and discrimination. Christians rediscover confidence in their Muslim neighbors.
The Syrian Catholic Archbishop visited the most important Christian city of Iraq, recently wrested from the jihadists. Qaraqosh bears the "scars" of the fighting. Need to de-mine land strewn with unexploded bombs before his people can return. Rebuilding infrastructure a priority. Republished courtesy of L'Orient-Lejour.