Large parts of the once thriving Christian community of Quaraqosh in Northern Iraq have been left in ruins.
The church in the town, which lies near Mosul, was destroyed by ISIL.
Now liberated from the extremists, those Christians who have returned, are struggling to deal with the new reality.
Marie Sabri a displaced resident said: ‘‘What is there to come back to, destruction? Our beautiful city, where we used to live happily, go to parties, and now we come back to this? To this destruction and injustice? They burned down homes and this…this is a tragedy. My uncle’s house has become like this (church) isn’t this pitiful? It is pitiful.’‘
Few places in Quaraqosh remain unscathed. Graffiti left by ISIL fighters covers most of the buildings that are still standing.
Those trying to rebuild the town, by getting rid of extremists propaganda, admit repainting will only be the first step on a long road to recovery.
Ikhlas Matteh, a teacher, said:’‘It is just paint, it can be erased. But from inside, we have to reform from the inside, to fix our ideologies and our concept of humanity. How to make others love us and to be loved by us, how to understand and to be understood, how to coexist together. That is the difficult part. That is very difficult. It will take generations.’‘
When ISIL took control of Quaraqosh in August 2014 many of the town’s near 50,000 Christian population fled abroad or to nearby Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. For the moment, that’s where many remain, unwilling to return to their former home.