On the Nineveh Plane, German ISIS Fighters Left Their Mark

By Maria Lozano

German graffiti, Batnaya, Iraq; ACN photo by Stephen Rasche

German graffiti, Batnaya, Iraq; ACN photo by Stephen Rasche

NEW YORK—In an eerie reminder of the ISIS has had in recruiting foreign fighters, provocative graffiti in German was found on the wall of a chapel during an inspection of the small town of Batnaya, on the Nineveh Plane. The small town, just 10 miles from Mosul, was recently recaptured from ISIS. It had been home for 850 Christian families.

The graffiti denounces Christians as “slaves of the Cross” and threatens them with death; “this country is Islamic country, you dirty ones, and you don’t belong here.” Further graffiti on the walls of the chapel of St. Addai reads: “Either you leave, or we will kill you.”

Stephen Rasche, an advisor to the Chaldean Archdiocese of Erbil who took photos of the graffiti and also documented the great degree of destruction in Batnaya, told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “The most important thing is to show the great degree of destruction so people can understand what has happened and just how dangerous it still is to return.

“Furthermore, by showing the destruction and desecration of our holy places, I would like to communicate to the world just how much dread and fear our own people are feeling right now when they have to decide whether they would later like to return.”

Destruction was also evident in the neighboring town of Karamles, which lies about 18 miles southeast of Mosul. Apart from desecrated and destroyed churches, along with broken and mutilated statues saints, Rasche made a particularly shocking find when he came upon the desecrated grave of a priest.

He reported: “the grave of one of our priests was dug up and the corpse removed. We found his vestments and the lid of the coffin, but there was no trace of the corpse.” ACN learned that the deceased was Father Salem Ganni, a priest who passed away in 2009, a relative of the 34-year-old priest Father Ragheed Ganni, who was shot dead in Mosul in 2007.

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org