“Slaves of the Cross, we will kill you all. This is Islamic territory. You do not belong here.”
Once thriving and beautiful, the Christian town of Batnaya, Iraq, was vandalized and demolished by ISIS.
The terrorist organization sought to erase the town’s Christian foundation.
But one ministry is rebuilding the town to remind the world of God’s presence and persistence!
Islamic militants occupied Batnaya for two years, until ISIS’s defeat in the area. During that time, they used every spare moment of their occupation to destroy Christian symbols and churches in the town and the surrounding region.
The terrorists vandalized churches, smashed statues, and left only one percent of the town’s homes standing.
Batnaya holds a long, rich Christian history, but the terrorists sought to erase every memory of Christianity and its influence.
ISIS drove out the village’s inhabitants and left a ghost town behind.
Since the militants were driven out of Batnaya, however, one ministry has begun to rebuild in the city in order to revive hope throughout the area.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is an international ministry organization that “provides pastoral and humanitarian assistance to the persecuted Church around the world.”
The ministry strives to reach “the suffering, the distressed, and the poorest of the poor” in more than 140 countries around the globe.
“Where there is darkness and despair, we provide light, hope, and a constant sign that the Church is a dynamic, single, universal body in Christ,” ACN writes.
It’s important for Christians around the world to experience the love of Christ’s body, the organization believes, and ACN seeks to fulfill that mission in Iraq by rebuilding the city of Batnaya.
Father Andrzej Halemba, the ministry’s Middle East director, said, “[This project is] a new and courageous step forward to secure the future of Batnaya.”
Hundreds of citizens were displaced and driven out of Batnaya by the militant occupation, but ACN hopes to encourage them to return by repairing and reconstructing the churches, homes, and public buildings throughout the town.
Approximately three hundred people have already returned to Batnaya, many of them believers, and the local church estimates that hundreds more will join them in the coming months.
“Even if the situation is not very clear, we see the importance of a sign of hope. ACN is determined to help the Christians [in Batnaya] to stay,” Father Halemba continued. “Our task is to stand by the people who would like to come back.”
ACN’s restoration of Batnaya includes the rebuilding of the parish church of St. Kyriakos and the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. The ministry also plans to rebuild St. Oraha’s Dominican Convent and kindergarten center.
Although the reconstruction project has faced several setbacks and delays—including booby traps and anti-Christian vandalism placed by Islamic activists—ACN continues to push forward with the effort.
The ministry asserts that the restoration of Batnaya is “crucial for the recovery of the Christian presence in the Nineveh Plains.”
ACN wants Christians everywhere to remember that they are part of God’s eternal family, and rebuilding what the enemy has destroyed is a critical part of that objective.
Originally founded by a young priest named Father Werenfried – who had a heart for the material and spiritual needs of the homeless and displaced – ACN started its work in Eastern Europe, but quickly expanded across Latin America, Africa, and East Asia as well.
The ministry always strives to meet the material needs of those who are suffering, whether or not they are believers, although the emphasis is always on the Gospel and Christ’s love for people.
Currently, ACN is working on projects in Belarus (support for missionaries), Nicaragua (a roof for a new church), the Democratic Republic of Congo (training of pastors), and Sri Lanka (counseling for trauma victims), among others.
The diverse range of ministries and beneficiaries affected by ACN is astounding! And each of these projects is strengthening the global body of Christ through providing aid to the “poor, forgotten, and persecuted faithful.”
To learn more about the ministry of ACN, and to find out more about our suffering brothers and sisters, visit the organization’s website.