Six months after his return to Mosul, Najib Mikhail, bishop of the Chaldeans of Mosul, Nineveh Plains and Aqrah (Akre), calls on the Christians to return to the city of Mosul, describing it as a "safe" city.
Bishop Najib Mikhail has returned to the city of Mosul, the center of Ninewa province, six months ago and decided to stay there, eight years after he left the city due to the threats of the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant ISIL.
"The father must reunite with his children, so I returned to Mosul to see closely the work of restoring churches. Mosul is my city. I am the first bishop to return to Mosul after its liberation and live here," says Bishop Mikhail, who was born in Mosul.
"During my return, the people of Mosul in general rejoiced and received me warmly. The people of Mosul wish the Christians to return to the city, so that they can live together in harmony as they lived in before the advent of ISIL."
According to the statistics of both the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, there are tens of thousands of Christian families who have not yet returned to their homes and are living in a state of displacement, in addition to that thousands of other families - 24,000 families from Ninewa only - have emigrated abroad.
Christians constitute 7% of the total 665,000 Internally Displaced People IDPs in Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR.
When ISIL took control of Mosul in mid-2014, it has put the Christians before three options: convert to Islam, pay the tax or leave, so most of them were forced to take the third option flee. Following that, most of the religious sites were destroyed.
The Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Nineveh Plains and Aqrah expressed his regret and sorrow as a small number of Christian families have returned to Mosul so far, 7080% only.
"Some of the families who returned to Mosul returned after my arrival... The reason behind the reluctance of the displaced Christians to return to Mosul is due to the failure to rebuild their destroyed homes and religious places."
Five churches are currently being restored in Mosul. "In total, 20 churches in Ninewa province are awaiting rehabilitation."
On the first ever papal visit to Iraq & his first international 3-day trip since the start of the corona virus pandemic, the pontiff has landed in Baghdad on March 5th and left on March 8th.
He has met Iraq's senior Shia Muslim cleric Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, led an inter-religious dialogue in Ur, home of prophet Abraham, met the Christian community in the Nineveh plains and finally led a mass prayer in Erbil stadium.
On March 7th, the Pontiff recited a prayer of sufferage for the victims of war at the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of Hosh al-Bieaa (Church Square).
Pope expressed his sadness for the brutal tragedy Nineveh, cradle of humanity, faced. He called on the locals to return home and reconstruct their hundred-years hometowns.
Christianity ranks the second religion after Islam in Iraq and it is a recognized religion by Iraqi constitution and their official language is Syriac.
Two decades ago, Iraq was home for over 2.5 million Christians, 3% of Iraq's population falling to 1.8 m in 2003 following gulf war. They are mainly living in the provinces of Baghdad, Nineveh, Duhok, Kirkuk and Erbil. Latest figures say currently only 400,000 Christians are living in Iraq.
About his decision to return to Mosul, Archbishop Najib Mikhail said, “My goal is first to encourage Christians to return to their homes, secondly to monitor the process of rebuilding churches, and thirdly I want to send a message to the whole world and to Christians that Mosul is safe and it only needs reconstruction and services so that all the displaced can return to their homes.”