The vast majority of Christian citizens of Karemlesh were either decimated or forced to flee by ISIS. Today, the city is experiencing a rebirth.
“These are not just buildings. This is our identity, our culture, our memory.” Father Thabet Habib is the pastor of Karemlesh, a small town of around 3,000 inhabitants, which was razed by ISIS terrorists during the Iraqi civil war, back in 2014. Today, only about 1,000 people live there. They hardly get by.
“We were killed and persecuted by ISIS”
Karemlesh is southeast of Mosul, on the Nineveh Plateau. During the civil war, the city was almost entirely destroyed, as ISIS intended to annihilate its Catholic population. “We were killed and persecuted,” Fr. Habib explains.
Today, as he walks through the old streets of his city, he mostly finds the remains of collapsed buildings, and bits and pieces of concrete and asphalt reduced to dust by bullets and explosions.
The Cradle of Civilization will be the cradle of peace
But the surviving Catholics decided to return and rebuild their lives in the place they were born, the “Cradle of Civilization.” History teaches us Iraq was once, and still is, a fertile land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, where the first known civilizations flourished (the Sumerians), and where later peoples settled and prospered (the Assyrians, for instance).
Catholics in Karemlesh mostly come from families that converted to the faith in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now that the war is finally over, they pray together to raise their spirits and regain hope. Some of them lost a leg or an arm during the war. Others lost family and friends.
“They cannot destroy our faith”
“Thank God, what the terrorists could not destroy was our faith,” Father Habib explains. He is responsible for assisting his parishioners, accompanying them in prayer, administering the sacraments. But they also managed to bring back the St. Joseph Catholic Center.
God is in the simple things
“What I like the most is to see my people smile,” says Fr. Habib, “and that we find God in the simplest things in everyday life.”
Besides praying for them, we can help persecuted and suffering Christians around the world, including these Iraqi Catholics, by giving them a Gift of Faith: a donation that reaches them thanks to thanks to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
This Christmas, we can all help Catholics living in need experience a rebirth of their communities, their families, and themselves. You can make your Gift of Faith on your own behalf or on behalf of someone else. With this simple but generous gesture, you will not only be helping to rebuild the many places devastated by war, but the lives of those who have suffered under persecution.
You can make your Gift of faith this Christmas by donating to ACN:
If you are making your Gift of Faith from the U.S., use this link: https://bit.ly/2LQm6nz
If you are making your Gift of Faith from Canada, use this link:https://bit.ly/2t2tgye
If you are making your Gift of Faith from Ireland, use this link:https://bit.ly/2rBA8lO
If you are making your Gift of Faith from the UK, use this link:https://bit.ly/2PbOQsW
If you are making your Gift of Faith from Australia, use this link:https://bit.ly/2Pd2DiP
If you are making your Gift of Faith from the Philippines, use this link:https://bit.ly/2YCIAxt