Christians in Mosul, Iraq, shed tears of joy as they gathered at a church for the first time in four years to celebrate Christmas after they were delivered from the jihadist rule of the Islamic State.
(REUTERS / Ari Jalal)Iraqi Christians pray during a mass on Christmas eve at Church of Saint George in Teleskof, Iraq December 24, 2017.
Women were overcome with emotion as the Christians began the Christmas mass by singing the Iraqi national anthem. For the believers who had just returned from exile in the Kurdistan region, the mass was a sign that Mosul would once again be teeming with life, The Daily Mail relayed.
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church urged the faithful to pray that peace and stability would reign in Mosul and elsewhere in the world. He also conveyed Christ’s message of love and peace and called on the displaced believers to return and take part in the reconstruction of their hometown.
Muslims showed solidarity with Christians by standing with them at Saint Paul’s church. To remind everyone of the city’s suffering at the hands of jihadists, a photo of a Christian who was killed while ISIS was in control was placed outside the house of worship.
“With this celebration, we tell them that residents of Mosul are all brothers, whatever their religion or ethnicity, and despite all the damage and suffering,” a Christian woman named Farqad Malko said.
Meanwhile, in Teleskof, Christians celebrated Christmas by gathering for mass at the newly renovated Church of Saint George. Children clad in Santa Claus costumes sang “Jingle Bells” in Aramaic as local resident Chamoun Daoud led their songs, Reuters reported.
This was Daoud’s first time to set foot in her hometown in three years since the ISIS rule forced 12,000 Chaldean Christians to flee. She tearfully described how significant it was to be able to return to the church where she got married and raised her kids in.
ISIS had forced Christians in the Nineveh Plains to convert to Islam, pay the jizya tax, or face death. Many fled to nearby towns, but there were also others who chose to seek asylum in other countries. Residents only started trickling back to Teleskof earlier this year.