The Iraqi Ministry of Reconstruction and Housing announced Monday (July 23rd) that the reconstruction designs for three Baghdad churches were completed.
"The designs, detailed plans and bill of construction materials for the renovation of three churches in Baghdad are complete," said Saad Salem Mohammad, a senior engineer at the ministry's engineering reconstruction office who is supervising the project. "They are the Sacred Heart and Mar Youssef in Karrada, and the Church of the Sacred Family in the Battaween area."
Mohammed said the designs were prepared according to "a consultancy contract signed earlier this year with the Christian Endowment office. Our office will take responsibility for supervising the renovation of the churches to ensure the work is of high quality and conforms to general engineering specifications".
The Christian Endowment office will put the project up for bid in the next few months. He said he expects renovation work to be completed by the end of 2012.
The reconstruction office will sign a new consultancy contract with the Christian Endowment office to prepare designs and conduct site surveys for the reconstruction of three other churches and a monastery in Baghdad, he added.
The plans for the new project will be delivered to the Christian Endowment office in November at the latest, he said, and repair and reconstruction work will be included in the endowment's 2013 investment plan.
Raad Jalil Kajaji, head of the Christian Endowment office in Iraq, said the endowment plans "to reconstruct and enlarge all the old churches in Baghdad and other parts of the country in this year's and in subsequent years' development plans".
"We asked the reconstruction ministry to prepare the designs and the plans for the churches [throughout Iraq], and the task was completed under a signed contract which includes direct engineering supervision of reconstruction work," he said.
The work will cost an estimated three billion dinars ($2.6 million) and includes building maintenance and repair, renovation of sanitary facilities and electrical installations, and the addition of new buildings to church compounds, Mohammed said.
Louis Eqlimous, a minority rights activist, praised the renovation project.
He said the initiative is a "positive step that solidifies the peaceful and brotherly co-existence among the entire Iraqi community".
"The churches are not houses of worship for the Christian sect only but also represent, in a symbolic way, a landmark of Iraq's history and civilisation, and offer testimony to the plurality of its components, their originality and the depth of their roots," he said.
Sami Dawood, a 40-year-old Christian, welcomed the project.
"It is a message of defiance to all the terrorists that says, 'We are staying here among our brothers of other faiths and ethnicities. We will not abandon our country and will reconstruct our churches, practice our rituals and worship freely and in peace despite you,'" he said.