‘Destroyed, ransacked, ruined’ – the people of Iraq need more than the Pope’s impassioned pleas

For many in Iraq, the real test will be in the coming months, long after the Pope returns to the Vatican, writes Bel Trew

Sunday 07 March 2021 18:15
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<p>Pope Francis, right, meets with Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, on Saturday</p>

Pope Francis, right, meets with Iraq's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, on Saturday

Clad in white, Pope Francis sat on a gleaming throne in the Iraqi city of Mosul, dwarfed by slabs of concrete that dangled limply from the metal sinews of bombed out buildings.

His small stage was cradled by several destroyed churches and a primary school, the cartoon murals scratched out by Islamic State militants. Just a few hundred metres away were the ravaged remains of the Nouri Mosque. It was here, in the summer of 2014, that Isis announced the unfurling of their caliphate and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi vowed to march on and conquer Rome.

A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have the pontiff sitting in Mosul’s Church Square, surrounded by children and families singing Christian songs and waving olive branches. As one young man, who lived under Isis in Mosul, tweeted (alongside his Isis charge sheet), he had been publicly flogged in Church Square six years ago for getting a crew cut, while Isis fighters shouted they would conquer Rome.

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