"It's been an authentic genocide, according to the definition in international law."
“For me, it has been a very intense experience to be in those towns, which have been destroyed, laid waste by persecution. It’s been an authentic genocide, according to the definition in international law.” These are Fernando de Haro’s words to Aleteia, after spending the past several days “overwhelmed by news of 850 families who had returned to their towns after the defeat of Daesh, and that had to flee once more due to the confrontation between Kurds and Iraqis.” De Haro is the director of a new documentary, Nineveh, on the plight of Christians on the Nineveh Plains.
The faith of these people isn’t failing: “The surprising thing is that, in the midst of those trying circumstances, their faith has rather grown. They’ve had the experience that God is sustaining them, that he is accompanying them.”
For example, the documentary includes the testimony of a young man who asked himself where God was in the midst of so much injustice. “It’s the question that Job asked himself, and one that we all ask. And it’s surprising that, through meeting a few people, this young man has rediscovered a God he had taken for granted. That kind of a testimony stays with me,” Haro says.
“The situation is very difficult. There’s an intense struggle to take control of the area. After the defeat of Daesh, the fight is now between Kurds and Iraqis. International forces need to pacify the area, and there needs to be a plan for a stable Iraq in which Christians can live in peace. The country has ended up with very few Christians. They are the remnant of Israel, but we have already seen on other occasions in history how life flourishes again after an episode like this,” he adds.
The campus of the CEU San Pablo University in Madrid, on Julián Romea Street, was the venue on Monday, October 30, for the premiere of this documentary on the Nineveh Plains, where once again the Kurdish militias and Iraqi army are facing off.
The film, directed by Fernando de Haro, tells the story of people who have suffered what is probably the most recent of the 21st century genocides. Nineveh documents the daily life of a few of the people in that region. The cameras enter their homes, and show us their sufferings and their hopes. It immortalizes their testimony of faithfulness and love for what they believe.
In the summer of 2014, more than 120,000 Christians were forced to flee their towns on the Nineveh Plains, an area in northern Iraq, near Mosul. It is one of the cradles of civilization. Christianity arrived on the Nineveh Plains in the first centuries after Christ, and the region has always had a significant population of baptized Christians. In its towns and villages, the people conserve remnants of the great Syrian, Chaldean, and Assyrian traditions.
The threat of Daesh was so great that in just one night entire neighborhoods were left empty. Nearly all the residents left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Many of them are now refugees. After the liberation of the region, some of them have been able to return to their homes. They have found their houses destroyed, burned, and ransacked. Their churches have been cruelly and maliciously profaned. There is no certainty that they can return with even a minimum of safety. There are too many international interests involved, and too many powers that prefer they be away from their homeland. Some international organizations have recognized that they have suffered genocide. The United Nations has not.
The documentary Nineveh was filmed in a war zone, when combat was still ongoing.
This is the fourth documentary in a series about persecuted Christians. The first of them, Walking Next to the Wall, was filmed in Egypt, and focuses on the Copts. The second, Nasarah, filmed in Lebanon, focuses on the Syrians and Iraqis persecuted by Daesh. The third, Alleluia, is about Nigeria. A fifth, One, deals with India. All five are available on Vimeo, here. You can watch the trailer for Nineveh below.