When I first met Martin Banni in 2014, he had just fled northern Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, which had been seized by ISIS in a single night. Arriving in Kurdish northern Iraq, the future priest and 120,000 others were entirely dependent on the charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and other organisations for help.
Now that ISIS has been forced out of Nineveh and is suffering losses across the region, there is an urgent need for Fr Martin and the displaced community to return to their homelands while they have the chance.
But preparing the way is a huge task. The relief the displaced communities felt after ISIS left Nineveh last autumn quickly turned to shock when they saw the devastation the Islamists had left behind.
Since then, ACN has developed plans to repair and rebuild, and the people’s confidence has begun to return, with more than 80 per cent now interested in returning home.
Essential to this is repairing homes. Although as many as 12,900 homes were damaged, nearly two thirds received only partial damage and the charity has plans to repair as many as possible.
The challenge is to introduce the scheme alongside ACN’s existing commitment to provide emergency help for displaced communities in Kurdistan.
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