People return to Batnaya, Christian village in Nineveh Plains, after reconstruction

BATNAYA, Iraq – In Batnaya village in northern Iraq, there are signs of daily life once more after being completely destroyed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014.

Batnaya’s reconstruction was funded by International non-profit organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which is implementing a huge reconstruction and restoration project throughout the Nineveh Plains region. Other than Batnaya, another twelve towns and villages are a part of the project.

Batnaya was in the control of ISIS for almost two years. By the time they were expelled in late-2016, only 1% of the villages 997 homes were left standing.

ISIS not only destroyed the church and any religious symbols it could find, but also defaced the remaining buildings with anti-Christian phrases (“Servants of the cross”; “We will kill you all”; “This is an Islamic land”; “You do not belong to here”).

So far, 300 people have returned to Batnaya. Now that reconstruction has advanced, ACN hopes more people will return.

The restoration project intends to rebuild the Chaldean Catholic Parish Church, the nearby church, the parish hall, the library, the church hall, Dominican convent, and the kindergarten.

The project’s director in the Middle East, Priest André Halimba, stated that the program was, “a new and courageous step forward in securing Batnaya’s future.” Halimba continued, “Despite the unclear situation, we still believe in the importance of this sign of hope.”