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Aid to the Church in Need
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Aid to the Church in Need
World News

Project to revive Christian village in Iraq destroyed by ISIS

by Tola Mbakwe

A Catholic aid charity has been given the go ahead to help rebuild an Iraqi Christian village after it was razed to the ground by Daesh (ISIS).

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will restore a church in the village of Batnaya.  The charity will also repair the nearby chapel, parish hall, library and parish house.  The project also includes rebuilding a children's nursery school and a convent.

ISIS occupied Batnaya for two years, leaving only percent of homes in the village standing. 

The scheme is seen as crucial to the revival of a village, where, after two years of Islamist occupation, one percent of its 997 homes was still standing.

ACN said the extremists had smashed altars, decapitated statues and smeared blasphemous anti-Christian messages on the walls. 

St Kyriakos Chaldean Catholic Church, Batnaya Photo Credit: Aid to the Church in Need

Work on the church and chapel will involve replacement windows, doors and roof tiles, redecoration throughout and removal of Daesh graffiti such as "Slaves of the Cross, we will kill you all. This is Islamic territory. You do not belong here."

Announcing the scheme for the most devastated of the thirteen Daesh-occupied Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains, ACN Middle East projects director Fr Andrzej Halemba described the programme as "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. 

"ACN is determined to help the Christians to stay. Our task is to stand by the people who would like to come back."

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Batnaya with Daesh (ISIS) graffiti Photo Credit : Aid to the Church in Need

After the ISIS occupation ended in October 2016, the village was abandoned as a ghost town.

Batnaya was disputed territory between the federal government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government. 

But more recently work got underway to repair houses, electricity, water and schools and last summer families finally started to return.

Within eight months, 300 people have come back and church leaders now think hundreds more will return after years of displacement in neighbouring towns and villages. 

ACN said rebuilding Batnaya is an enormous task as the village was on the frontline of fighting between ISIS and coalition forces.

Widespread booby-trapping has delayed work which could only begin after a huge de-ordnance programme had been completed, according to the charity.

Restoration has been further hindered by the extensive tunnels dug under the village by ISIS captives who went underground to escape bombardment.  

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