IRAQ – Returning Christians erect crosses in areas liberated from IS
In every village liberated from IS on the Nineveh plain, Christians are erecting wooden crosses and placing them on the roofs of churches and houses as a sign of victory over the darkness of Islamic State. The placement of crosses has become a recurring gesture since the Iraqi army began the offensive to recover the city of Mosul, the former IS stronghold in Iraq.
A few weeks ago the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad, Bishop Louis Sako, visited the village of Telekuf / Tesqopa, liberated from IS. The bishop celebrated the first Mass for two and a half years in the church of St George, which was attended by the authorities and officials of the region. In his homily, Bishop Sako said that this event was “the first spark of light shining in all the cities of the Nineveh plain after the darkness of the IS, which lasted almost two and a half years.”
Afterwards Bishop Sako blessed the great cross that was erected on a hill on the outskirts of the town as a sign of victory of the Christian faith against the jihadists that sought to eliminate Christianity. He said that this cross will announce “to the whole world that this is our land, we were born and we will die in it. Our ancestors were buried in this land and we are going to stay to preserve them with all our strength and for our future generations.” He declared that Iraqi Christians will demonstrate to the world that the forces of darkness, which wreaked havoc on their land, are short lived and that the Church of Christ, although it has suffered, is built on rock.
“This is our land and our home,” Bishop Sako told the faithful, adding “It is a sincere and great call for the return and reconstruction. We adhere to our land, our future in the land of our ancestors. Here we can be proud of our history and here we can obtain the concession of all our rights.” He stated that the time had come for the people to regain hope and return to their villages to begin a new stage.
Muslims have also played a part in these events. The previous week a group of young Muslims joined volunteers from the French aid organization SOS Chrétiens d’Orient in the cleaning of a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary located in eastern Mosul, which had been liberated by the Iraqi army. This action is part of a campaign that seeks to remember the peaceful religious coexistence that existed in the city before the jihadists occupied it in 2014.