Around 40,000 Christians who escaped from the 2014 attacks of Islamic State in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains have returned to their homes but are in a “very hard situation”, according to the Pope’s nuncio in Iraq:

“There is still much to be done, much to rebuild. The houses were damaged, burned or destroyed. But now almost half of the Christians, in some places, who had left their homes, have been able to return,” said Alberto Ortega.

Returning Christians promote forgiveness and reconciliation, much needed to regain stability in the country, said Ortega, citing a family who, upon return, found their home occupied by a large Muslim family. They let them stay there before they moved back home permanently.


Noeh's house as he found it upon his return to Karamles in March 2017. (World Watch Monitor)
Noeh’s house as he found it upon his return to Karamles in March 2017. (World Watch Monitor)

One destroyed house in the village of Karamles belonged to the family of a young boy, Noeh. Four hundred and forty-five other houses were burnt out in Karamles – but some would say these families were fortunate compared to the 97 whose houses were completely destroyed.

After fleeing in August 2014, Noeh and his family lived in displacement in Erbil for three years.

The Islamic State withdrew from his village at the end of October 2016. Noeh’s family returned in March 2017 but had to find temporary accommodation before their burnt-out house could be reconstructed and become liveable again.

With the help of international aid organisations, Noeh’s house received a new look and the family resettled there in August 2018. In the video below, Noeh tours his renovated house and shares his thoughts on their displacement, return and the future of his hometown.

(If you cannot see the video, please click here.)

In December 2017, Noeh went to the US with his father to present a petition at the UN General Assembly, calling for the protection of Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria, and recognition of the key role faith leaders can play in rebuilding efforts post-Islamic State. The ‘Hope for the Middle East’ petition, a joint initiative of the Christian charities Open Doors and Middle East Concern, was signed by more than 800,000 people around the world.