Qaraqosh (Reuters) Hundreds of Christians
flocked to the Iraqi town of Qara-qosh on
Sunday to celebrate Palm Sunday for the
first time in three years, packing into a
church torched by Islamic State to take
communion at its ruined altar.
In October, Iraqi forces expelled the
Sunni Muslim militants from Qaraqosh as part
of a campaign to retake nearby Mosul, the
country’s second-largest city seized by the
group in June 2014.
Iraq’s biggest Christian settlement until
the militants arrived, Qaraqosh has been a
ghost town as most residents are still too
afraid to come back with the battle for
Mosul, located 20 kilometres away, still
But on Sunday church bells rang again
across the town.
the first Palm Sunday procession in the
burnt out main church of the Christian city
of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it
from Islamic States militants, Iraq April 9,
2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Hundreds arrived in cars from Erbil, the
main city in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan
where most Christian had fled when Islamic
State gave them an ultimatum to pay special
taxes, convert or die.
“We need reconciliation,” Syriac Catholic
Archbishop of Mosul Butrus Moshe told
worshippers in the Immaculate Conception
Church guarded by army jeeps.
Islamic State has targeted minority
communities in both Iraq and Syria, setting
churches on fire.
Scribbled “Islamic State” slogans could
be still seen on the church’s walls while
torn-up prayer books littered the floor.
Escorted by soldiers carrying rifles, the
congregation then walked through Qaraqosh
for Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week that
culminates on Easter Sunday, holding up a
banner saying “In times of war we bring
Christianity in northern Iraq dates back
to the first century AD.
The number of Christians fell sharply
during the violence which followed the 2003
overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the Islamic
State takeover of Mosul purged the city of
Christians for the first time in two
“Almost 75 percent of houses were burnt
so if people return where can they live?”
said Aziz Yashou, a worshipper. “We call for
an international protection in order to live