On Christmas Eve church bells rang for the first time in two years on Christmas in Bartella, a predominantly Christian town outside Mosul.
Even though the Mar Shimoni church has been badly damaged by
ISIS, it was filled with Christians who returned to their town for this
For the most part, they would return afterwards to their places
of refuge in Ainkawa, the Christian enclave of the Kurdish capital
Erbil, where they fled when ISIS entered their town in August 2014.
Not only because they had since found homes, work and income,
and not even because their houses have been looted, or have been used as
bomb factories and pharmacies, or damaged by tunnel building or air
The reason why hardly anyone has in the past two months
returned to the liberated Christian towns of Nineveh was clearly
illustrated by the gunmen that guarded churchgoers on Christmas Day from
the roofs in Qaraqosh, where hundreds attended mass in the Mar Yohanna
ISIS had left its graffiti there, as a warning for those daring
to consider returning, written inside the church, declaring that ‘the
Islamic State remains and extends’.
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