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Pope’s visit to Iraq: Malteser International spotlights support for Christians and other religious minorities

Years of IS violence and persecution have decimated communities in northern Iraq, forcing thousands of Christians and other religious minorities into exile. Photo: Malteser International

Malteser International has supported the return and recovery of displaced families. Here, project partners install solar panels on the roof of two newly constructed schools. Photo: People in need/Malteser International.

Cologne/Erbil. Pope Francis will visit Iraq from March 5 to March 8 in his first foreign trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. During the first ever papal visit to the country Pope Francis will celebrate mass for Iraq's beleaguered Christian minority, and seek to engage representatives from other religions in the country. Prominent on the pontiff’s itinerary are the Nineveh Plains, where Malteser International has spent the last years helping Christians and other vulnerable religious groups driven from their homes by IS to return.

"Christians and other religious minorities have suffered an almost biblical persecution at the hands of IS, which forced thousands of people into exile," said Clemens Graf von Mirbach-Harff, Secretary General of Malteser International. "Nobody will benefit if we allow the divisions that have been torn between communities that lived in peace together for centuries become permanent. Alongside partner organizations, we have worked to make it possible for the displaced communities to return. But reconciliation is the next and biggest challenge. We hope that this visit from His Holiness will help to usher in a new era of peace."

After northern Iraq’s liberation from IS in 2017, Malteser International launched a multisectoral program to support the return of displaced communities in the Nineveh Plains. More than 2,000 houses have been reconstructed or repaired, schools and kindergartens have been built, 35,000 people have benefited from income-generating initiatives, and more than 47,000 people have taken part in cultural and peace-building activities. The program was funded by the German government and implemented alongside local partner organizations. It will be completed at the end of April 2021.

Malteser International is the humanitarian relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta. With over 100 projects in 29 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, Malteser International supports those affected by poverty, disease, conflict and disaster, helping them lead a healthy life with dignity – without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles build the foundation of our work. For more information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int.

Note to editors:
Clemens Graf von Mirbach-Harff, Secretary General of Malteser International, is available for interviews from Iraq from March 6 to March 8.

More information on Malteser International’s Ninewa Return Program.

Contact information:
Katharina Kiecol
katharina.kiecol(at)malteser-international.org  
+49 (0) 221 96441-181

Contact

Katharina Kiecol
+49-(0)221-96441-181
Email: katharina.kiecol(at)malteser-international.org

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