Putting down new roots

It takes at least five years before olive trees bear fruit – so it was with a sense of looking to the future that olive trees were given to the families who owned the first 105 homes to be rebuilt on the Nineveh Plains.The families were asked to plant the trees in their houses’ gardens.

The olive trees were blessed in ceremonies held in Karamlesh, Baghdeda, and Qaraqosh. During the services they were told to put back roots in the villages they were born in and bring forth fruits of peace and reconciliation.

The task of rebuilding Christian villages is being overseen by the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC) formed by three of Iraq’s ancient Churches – Chaldean, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic. Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Nicodemus Sharaf – who is part of the ecumenical NRC – said:

“We are the roots of Christianity. We must remain in our country. We must remain as witnesses to Jesus Christ in this country, in Iraq and especially in the Plains of Nineveh.”

During his UK visit Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda stressed the importance of olive trees to the region: “The Nineveh Plains are famous for their olives – there used to be ancient olive groves around Basiqa, but they were destroyed by Daesh.”

At the last olive tree ceremony, in Baghdeda’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception – which was torched by Daesh – Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Mouche said: “We stand by our decision to return, despite all the challenges that await us. Christ is our tower of strength that gives us hope.

“We must persevere, because this is our soil and our heritage. I am very happy that we have an organisation like Aid to the Church in Need at our side.”