On Friday, March 5, Pope Francis begins his historic visit to Iraq. The sovereign pontiff must spend three days there, and continues his journey despite the violence: On Wednesday, another 10 rockets landed on a US base. Across the country, churches have suffered and this is particularly the case in Mosul: Daesh destroyed 80% of the city.
Thanks to a Unesco program, Christian and Muslim engineers join forces today to restore them, in particular Our Lady of the Hour in the old city of Mosul. First, it was necessary to remove the rubble and all the mines that had been laid by the jihadists.
The magnitude of the damage became apparent later when Omar Al Tawil, an engineer, was able to enter the courtyard of the building built in 1870. “See those ropes hanging from the windows? ISIS was hanging people here. They spread terror.”, he explains. Omar says that the Church served as a prison and court during Daesh’s rule over the city. Inside, all the relics are gone. The walls are black, the stones are broken.
For Omar, a Muslim born in Mosul, it is a symbol that must be revived today: “It is a very large church that has inestimable value. We have to take care of it, of each of its stones. It will take time.”
Despite the magnitude of the task, Omar did not hesitate for a single second, as this project sees it as a means to encourage Christians to return to Mosul. “This allows to re-weave the links between the inhabitants, Muslims, Christians, minorities”, he said. “And I hope that encourages our Christian brothers to come back and live here in their city. Even the Pope is coming and we are rebuilding his church, for them.”
So far, very few Christian families have returned to Mosul. However, about 2,000 were here before Daesh arrived.