Mosul priest: What we have seen is very hard, but families are keeping the faith

Fr. Al-Sabbagh’s parish in Mosul is still standing, despite heavy fighting.

There is a miracle in the midst of Mosul’s destruction: the Church of St. Thomas, dating back to the seventh century. It is still standing despite enduring the brutal battles by the Iraqi army in the takeover of the city.

With Mosul now liberated, the big question is whether Christians will be able to return to the places that they had to leave hastily on the night of June 9, 2014.

FR. DANIEL AL-SABBAGH
Syro-Catholic Priest, Mosul (Iraq)
“At this time neither Orthodox Christians nor Chaldean Christians can return to Mosul. First, because the return trip is not safe. Second, because our families have lost confidence in Muslims, the other residents of the city. Third, because there is still no basic electricity or water services to be able to live there.”

Fr. Al-Sabbagh was forced to flee Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan along with thousands of other Christians. These Christians do not intend to return for now, at least until they are guaranteed a greater sense of security. However, they have witnessed that some Muslim neighbors are showing signs of good will toward them.

FR. DANIEL AL-SABBAGH
Syro-Catholic Priest, Mosul (Iraq)
“We have seen some groups of young Muslims go inside the churches to clean them. The Iraqi army also made a cross and raised it over one of the monasteries, and put an announcement inside welcoming Christian brothers. However, it is not enough to justify what has happened.”

For many former residents, it was their own Muslim neighbors who directed ISIS to their homes. That is why, even if they could return, they feel that forming a relationship and mending this sense of betrayal will take years.

FR. DANIEL AL-SABBAGH
Syro-Catholic Priest, Mosul (Iraq)
“Christians think that if others reject us, how are we going to live with them or re-share the same land? What we have seen was very hard but, thank God, our families understood it and left everything to save their faith. The Church has been able to carry out its mission over these last three years with joy and love.”

This parish priest from Erbil asks Western Christians not to forget their brothers in Mosul, where for the first time in centuries, there has been no Christian presence for three years. He insists that they must not be forgotten, because though financial aid is important, the most important thing is to feel the solidarity and closeness from other Christians around the world.