Tens of thousands of Christian refugees from Nineveh province have fled to Ankawa town, Erbil and have settled ina church in the Christian majority town. A Vatican representative expressed his concern of a disaster awaiting the refugees.
A BasNews correspondent who visited Nineveh Christian refugees in Ankawa was shown that churches are able to provide basic needs to the refugees in the area.
Abdulkarim Bahnam, an older Christian refugee who fled Qaraqush in Nineveh to Ankawa 12 days ago due to the threat posed by Islamic State (IS) militants.
“Once we knew that IS insurgents had gotten close to the area, my family members and I escaped on foot, taking nothing with us,” Bahnam told BasNews.
Bahnam’s family walked for four hours in order to reach a vehicle that brought them to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they can now rest, safe from the threats of the IS insurgents.
He pointed out that during their two weeks as refugees, they have been using their own money in order to buy basic food and needs. They are yet to receive any support from charity organizations.
Morin Shaba, 71, has not received medical treatment for her wounded legs. She praised one of the priests in her village for gathering all her family under a shelter in Ankawa and supervising them as a father.
“We don’t have any problems in terms of air conditioning and food supplies, but I need medicine because I can no longer stand the pain in my legs,” added Shaba.
John Wael is another young refugee. Well-dressed, he spoke to BasNews, “I didn’t bring these clothes with me. I have bought them. We have water over here and every morning I take a shower and my mother washes my clothes. People help us and meet our basic needs. They are very good to us. This is my first time here, and I have made new friends.”
Yousif Wasim is 40-years-old and lay on his back feeling ill. He lives with some other refugees in a primary school. He criticized the local authorities by not providing basic needs and air conditioners.
“Thirty families have gathered in this school and the water in the tanks is not sufficient for us and we haven’t receive enough medicine either,” said Wasim.
Vatican Ambassador to Iraq, Monsignor Gorgio Linga visited Christian refugees in Mar Yousif Church in Ankawa. He told BasNews, “We are sad about what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Iraq. Unfortunately, we can’t directly provide help to Mar Yousif church.”
“It is necessary to stabilize Christian areas so that refugees will be able to return back to their houses. Now, more than 20,000 Christian refugees have came to Ankawa, and this large number has put pressure on the Church to provide them with all the basic needs,” said Linga.
Talking about how the Vatican can help the refugees, Linga says, “It is necessary for churches here to draw up proposals and send them to the Vatican which will assess the costs and provide money for them.”
He stated that churches around the world have done what they can to address the basic needs of the Christian refugees .
There are 700 Christian refugees settled in Mar Yousif Church, a large number for a church its size. It is not big enough to house all the refugees forcing many to make shelters in the east and west gardens of the church.