There were tears, praying and singing as the cross ─ deemed illegal by ISIS – returned to the Christian villages in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain.
News continues to emerge of villages being reclaimed from ISIS, and signs of destruction become apparent.
As soon as it was remotely safe, priests were escorted back to their villages by car. In Christian villages like Karamles and Qaraqosh – half an hour’s drive east of Mosul – they were among the first non-combatants to return now the villages have been liberated from ISIS occupation.
Father Thabet, who lives with his congregation in a complex for internally displaced people in Erbil, brought a cross, the size of a man, covered with flowers, with him when he returned to his home village of Karamles.
“I am so happy I can do this. I’m smiling from cheek to cheek and I weep tears of joy at the same time. This is the trip I have been praying for, for two years now,” he said.
He climbed Barbara Hill, next to his village, and planted the cross firmly in the ground overlooking Karamles.
When he arrived in Karamles, Fr Thabet found his church had been heavily damaged by ISIS but was still standing. The church’s cross had been taken off and thrown to the ground. The inside of the church was a mess, but it’s not beyond repair. Fears that the Christian village would be completely uninhabitable have proven to be unfounded.
ISIS conquered the Nineveh Plain – including Iraq’s second city of Mosul and many Christian villages surrounding it – in 2014. Tens of thousands of Christian families had to run for their lives. The battle for Mosul is still being fought, but large Christian settlements surrounding Mosul, like Karamles and Qaraqosh, are already liberated. At night, however, ISIS fighters are still attempting to reclaim territories.
It is expected it will take some time before families can start returning to their villages close to Mosul. Most of them will wait for Mosul itself to be liberated and for ISIS to be driven out completely.
Source: World Watch Monitor