- Dec 10, 2019
Visiting northern Iraq recently, the Syriac Catholic patriarch was horrified by the destruction and the empty villages. What was once a thriving community of 100,000 Christians on the Ninevah Plains has been all but eradicated by Islamic State — along with churches and community centers.
Iraqi Christians retake the occupied regions of Iraq after a two year occupation by the Islamic State only to find their heritage and history ransacked and in ruins.
Keramlis, a Christian town on the Nineveh plains in northern Iraq, fell to the Islamic State in August 2014. Now the town is liberated, and Christians are returning to its churches under the protection of armed Assyrian militias.
While long-Christian villages are being liberated, the threats facing Christians remain real, even in areas outside of ISIS control. The result is a mixture of celebration and fear, hope and horror, faced daily by Christians seeking to remain in a land that embraced the faith during the time of the apostles.
Many Iraqi Christians are closely watching the current offensive to retake Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, from Islamic State forces. Each battlefield advance brings hope that they can return home, but they also fear what they might find when they get there.
For the estimated 40,000 Iraqi Christians currently living in Turkey as refugees, having fled the IS-fueled violence in their country officially recognized by the U.S. State Department as “genocide,” being resettled somewhere else is neither easy nor quick.