Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled the Nineveh Plain in Iraq when ISIS overran the region in 2014.Reuters
Many Iraqi Christians are too terrified to return home after ISIS, but one priest has vowed that the Church will “never, never give up” hope of Christianity flourishing in the country again.
Father Emanuel Youkhana, an Assyrian Church leader in Batnaya, spoke to PBS Newshour just three days after Islamic State was driven from the town.
He said that holy books had been burned by ISIS militants during occupation, the church desecrated and ISIS symbols graffitied on the walls.
He told PBS that he felt “joy that the church had survived. But sadness for what has been done in the church.”
Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled the Nineveh plain when ISIS overran the region in 2014. In 2003, there were around 1.5 million Christians in Iraq – there are now believed to be around just 200,000.
owever, many Christian-majority towns taken by ISIS two years ago are now being liberated as part of the Mosul offensive, a US-backed push to recapture ISIS’ last stronghold in Iraq.
And yet, Father Emanuel said it will be a challenge to ensure that the Church thrives once more, even once ISIS is eradicated.
“It’s a challenging question to keep the Christian Church alive here. And we can. We can. We will never, never give up,” he said.
“We might be helpless, but we are never hopeless.”