On the way to dealing ISIS its final death blow, Peshmerga and Iraqi forces have been systematically liberating towns just outside of Mosul.
Many of these towns are ancient Christian villages rich with history. The Biblical city of Nineveh, where Jonah famously refused to go before getting swallowed up by a giant whale, are located in what today is northern Iraq. Many of the villages, including Qaraqosh, were targeted and ransacked by ISIS.
They destroyed crosses, relics, churches and entire towns in hopes of wiping Christians off the face of the map. They also forced Christians to either pay a tax (called a ‘jizya’), renounce their faith in favor of Islam, or be slaughtered.
Now, as these villages and cities are liberated, the faithful are once again returning home. In one stunning clip posted to Twitter, clergy can be seen celebrating mass yesterday in their burnt out church.
The Archbishop of Mosul, Butrus Moshe, held the first Sunday mass in the Christian town of Qaraqosh, Iraq, after its liberation from ISIS. pic.twitter.com/cbY81v0SrM
— Ruptly Stringer (@RuptlyStringer) October 31, 2016
The area is still dangerous – Iraqi and Peshmerga forces are currently sweeping for IED’s left behind by the extremist militants.
In spite of church being burnt out, #Mosul Archbishop defiantly leads Christian Sunday Mass today in liberated #Iraq's Qaraqosh. pic.twitter.com/YLTkJJHuL3
— Sarah Ab (@sahouraxo) October 30, 2016
More from Reuters:
Surrounded by charred walls and in front of a ruined altar, dozens of Iraqi Christians celebrated mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh on Sunday for the first time since it was recaptured from Islamic State.
Church bells rang out in the town on the southeastern approaches to Mosul where Iraqi troops, backed by U.S.-led air and ground forces, have been driving back the Sunni Muslim jihadists ahead of a battle for the city itself.
“Today Qaraqosh is free of Daesh (Islamic State),” Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Butrus Moshe told worshippers.
Archbishop of #Mosul leads first Sunday mass in #Qaraqosh since retaken from #IS #Daesh #ISIS @AFPphoto y @safinphoto pic.twitter.com/mZRUeyuVY3
— Jean-Marc Mojon (@mojobaghdad) October 30, 2016
Their faith has literally been tested by fire – the most evil, violent force in our lifetime – and yet they remain strong.
American Christians indeed face persecution, rejection and isolation as today’s modern culture persistently seeks to marginalize believers and relegate them to the dustbins of history. But these Iraqis keeping their faith, keeping their joy, keeping their gratitude, in the face of such oppression and outright evil are inspiring and encouraging millions of American believers to face whatever challenges they may face with the confidence in the promises of God.