Iraqi Christians Celebrate Bittersweet Christmas After ISIS Defeat

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by Alexander Slavsky
Comes amidst sadness at the separation of families and damage to homes and churches
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TELESKOF, Iraq ( – In the midst of intense persecution of Middle-Eastern Christians, a reprieve was granted to Christians in Iraq after they forced ISIS out of their country.

Iraqi Christians at Mass

Church of Saint George, Teleskof, Iraq

On Sunday, Iraqi Christians celebrated Christmas at the rededicated Church of St. George in Teleskof for the first time in three years since the Islamic State took control, threatening the Christians with forced conversion, the payment of a tax or death. As many as 12,000 Chaldean Christians fled and moved to nearby towns and cities, while others moved abroad.

“Hundreds of congregants, dressed in their finest, poured in to pray and receive communion from Father Salar Bodagh, who later lit the traditional bonfire in the church’s courtyard, a symbol of renewal, he said,” according to the New York Post.
In addition, Syrian Catholics attended midnight Mass at the Church of the Immaculate in Qaraqosh on Sunday, which was severely affected by a fire that left the walls discolored and blackened, along with ISIS graffiti. The pastor of the church, Fr. Butros Kappa, spoke of hope in the midst of sadness on Saturday before Christmas Mass “to remind everyone that despite the tragedies that have befallen us, we’re still here.”

“We’ll have a Christmas Mass like in previous years, but this year, ours will be a joy soaked in tears, because all of our people have left Iraq,” according to Kappa.

The school headmistress with tears in her eyes mentioned that it’s “so special to be back in my church, the church where I got married, the church I raised my children in.”