A Catholic charity has sent 15 statues of the Virgin Mary to the Middle East to replace ones destroyed by ISIS.
The group Œuvre d’Orient, a French association dedicated to helping persecuted Christians, has sent the statues from Lourdes to Ankawa, a suburb of the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has a majority Catholic population.
Aleteia reports that once they arrive, they will be carried in procession through the town by Chaldean and Syriac Catholics, before being blessed and sent to their parishes.
Œuvre d’Orient say the processions will be a testament to Jeremiah 31:17: “And here is hope for thy last end, saith the Lord: and the children shall return to their own borders.”
In March, a senior aid worker described the Chaldean Catholic population in northern Iraq as “on the verge of extinction”, warning that the West must help.
Stephen Rasche, legal counsel and head of resettlement programmes for the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil, said: “The future really does hang in the balance,” adding: “History could look back on this and say ‘in their time of greatest need, they didn’t get the support and the community disappeared’. That could happen. We need to be honest about that.”
Christian families were forced to flee the Nineveh Plains when ISIS took control of the region in 2014, mainly finding refuge in Erbil. Although the terror group is slowly losing territory, many thousands of Christians remain in the city as IDPs (internally displaced persons).
Since 2003, Iraq’s Christian population has collapsed from 1.4 million to 275,000.