NPR: For Iraqi Christians, Return To Captured City Is A Fraught Mandate

For those of us watching the desperate plight of Christians in Iraq, it’s hard to imagine the courage it would take for a Christian to re-enter the city of Mosul. Less than a month ago, there was a mass exodus of Christians from the city as ISIS took control and demanded that all inhabitants “repent” or be executed.

In a stunning interview on National Public Radio, Archbishop Emil Nona, head of the Chaldean Church in Mosul, explains why he must go back into the city and why some other Christians are going with him.

For Iraqi Christians, Return To Captured City Is A Fraught Mandate

by Deborah Amos

Archbishop Emil Nona, the head of the Chaldean church in Mosul, Iraq, was out of town when ISIS captured his city. Now, he is going back to Mosul, as are some 50 Christian families. He knows the dangers, but he says he must tend his flock.


AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Mosul is northern Iraq’s largest city and the takeover by ISIS has prompted an exodus of the last remaining Iraqi Christians there. The seizure raised fears that a thousand years of Christian culture would vanish. But in recent days, some Christian families have returned to Mosul and surrounding villages. And soon they’ll be joined by the Archbishop of the Chaldean Church. NPR’s Deborah Amos caught up with him in nearby Erbil.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: The Christian exodus from Mosul weighs heavily on Archbishop Amil Nona. His black clerical suit is still neatly pressed but his haggard face is gray. He’s been helping desperate, displaced families find shelter in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region about 60 miles east of Mosul. But as some Christian families have decided to go back home, he knows he must go, too.

AMIL NONA: I am Archbishop of Mosul. My diocese is the city of Mosul and around Mosul.

AMOS: You will go back?

NONA: Yes, sure.

AMOS: Are you afraid?

NONA: No, there’s no time for afraid. Now we are – we must work for our families. There’s no time for afraid.

AMOS: These families are the last of a large community that numbered 35,000 in 2003 – dwindled to 3,000 a decade later. There are 20 churches in Mosul and no mass has been said since the Sunni extremists of ISIS seized the city on June 10.

NONA: I can’t say if there is future or not, because we don’t know which future we have.



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