Iraq Church Rescued from ISIS Opens for the First Time in Two Years

A church rescued from ISIS in Iraq has been rededicated.

The reopening of a church in northern Iraq after two years of control by ISIS heralds an era of hope for Iraqi Christians whose lives have been devastated by the militants. The church, which was desecrated by ISIS, has now been rededicated with liturgies being offered again, since the church fell silent in August 2014. The sounds of the Church bells were a welcome one to the ears of a people who’ve grown wary of the sounds of explosives and firing.

Iraq Church Rescued from ISIS Opens for the First Time in Two Years[/tweetthis]

The site where the Church of Mar Korkeis is situated is an important one for Christians. Firstly, being the plains of the Biblical Nineveh, it’s the place where the famous conversion of Nineveh happened under the guidance of the prophet Jonah. This is remembered on Ash Wednesday, when Catholics apply ash on their foreheads, in the manner that the citizens of Nineveh did when they repented.

Secondly, since the first century A.D. Christians have been in northern Iraq. Although it was their traditional home, Christians began facing persecution ever since 2003, when Saddam Hussein lost power. Matters became worse when ISIS took control of Mosul, from where the leader of ISIS declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Christians were given only two choices, conversion to Islam, or death. Many Christians from Bashiqa, north of Mosul where the church has reopened, fled to the nearby Kurdish-controlled regions.

After the Kurdish Peshmerga fought and drove off the Sunni extremist group from Bashiqa, the displaced Christians began returning to their homeland. However, the Peshmerga warns that the city is still riddled with dangerous explosives which are yet to be uncovered.

The crowning moment for the Christians of Bashiqa was when a cross was installed at the top of the church, replacing the one that was broken by the militants. The community, under the parish priest Father Afram, expressed their gratitude to the Kurdish Peshmerga and hoped that these areas would remain under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Father Afram said, “we would prefer to be part of the KRG, because of our proximity to the area and because, for the past 13 years, the regional government has been looking after us.”


Follow the Conversation on Twitter