President Macron visits battered Mosul, ‘France is committed to the plurality that is the wealth of the Middle East’

MOSUL, Iraq – French President Emmanuel Macron visited Mosul on Sunday where he paid a visit to the famous al-Nuri Mosque and the Latin rite Our Lady of the Hour Church, built in 1870. Macron toured the mosque and church which were heavily damaged by the Islamic State during its Caliphate (2014-2017) when it ruled northern Iraq – except over the Kurdish Region in Iraq which was saved by U.S.-led International Coalition airpower from an advance by Islamic State.

France is part of the International Coalition against the Islamic State and has troops stationed in Iraq.

Macron is in the country where he participated in a conference on cooperation and partnership in Baghdad with various Middle East state leaders, aimed at agreeing an approach to reduce tensions in the Middle East and promote common interests, future prospects and overcoming challenges.

The French president criticized the slow pace of reconstruction in Mosul and promised to bring back a French consulate to Mosul and establish French-language schools in the city. On his Twitter account, Macron reiterated France’s attachment to the age-old relationship that united his country with Christians in the Middle East — the vast majority of Christians in Iraq are Syriacs — and France’s commitment to Iraq’s plurality.

During its long historical involvement in the Middle East, France has shown its strong support for Middle Eastern Christians and Syriacs by taking in hundreds of thousands of Syriacs (Maronites, Chaldeans, Orthodox, Catholics, and Melkites). They now live safe in Paris, Marseille, and Lyon.

Macron’s visit is intended to show French support for the battered metropolis of Mosul, which was a multicultural and multi-religious city before the Islamic State. In statements made during his visit, Macron urged the various religious communities to “work together” and rebuild Iraq (article continues after tweet).

Macron also met with bishops and clerics of the Syriac churches. Present were among others Syriac Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul Najib Mikhael Moussa, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Mar Timotheus Musa Shamani of the Mar Mattai Monastery in the Nineveh Plains, and Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Mosul, Kerkeslokh (Kirkuk), and the Kurdish Region of Iraq.

Since fleeing the Islamic State in 2014, Archbishop Sharaf has resided in Erbil, where tens of thousands of Syriacs-Chaldeans live in the Ankawa district. He is unlikely to return to his former residence in Mosul for reasons of convenience, security, and simply because there are no Suryaye (Syriacs) left in Mosul, nor have any really returned. Tens of thousands of Suryaye fled Mosul and the Nineveh Plains with the advance of the Islamic State terrorist organization. About 35% of the displaced have returned to their hometowns of Baghdede (Syriac Catholic), Bartella (Syriac Orthodox), Tel Kepe, Alqosh, Tesqopa and Batnaya (all Syriac Chaldean).

How difficult the situation really is for the Syriacs is apparent from Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf’s desperate outcry for help to French President Emmanuel Macron during his visit: “We have become a minority and are content to remain a minority, but it is very difficult to remain displaced and refugees.”