Returning Christians Celebrate Easter in Iraq
For many Christian families in Qaraqosh, this Easter is particularly special. It’s the first celebration they've had since permanently moving back to Iraq. Many were forced to flee the city in 2014 when the Islamic State attacked.
Celebrations began on Palm Sunday when thousands of Iraqi Christians walked through the streets of the ancient town, waving palm and olive branches.
Image: Crowds of people joined together to march.
Their chorus, “King of kings and Lord of Lords. Glory! Hallelujah!” was heard throughout the entire town.
The march ended with an open-air service on the square of St. John’s Church.
Image: Christians wave palm and olive branches.
Starting To Rebuild
Anis Behnam, a 58-year-old university lecturer returned to Qaraqosh last year. Standing amidst the rubble of houses demolished by Islamic State in Qaraqosh, he is clear about his future plans.
Image: Anis, standing in Qaraqosh.
“Before ISIS, we were here in Qaraqosh with 50,000 Christians. But up to now, 25,000 have returned. However, even if there was only 1,000 Christians left, we would stay here,” he said. “I want to stay here. Forever.”
Walking around his war-torn neighbourhood, many houses have been burnt or destroyed by the Islamic State, but the rebuilding has begun.
Easter: New Life
Next Sunday will be the first time, since moving back, that Anis will able to celebrate Easter.
“Easter is a message to humanity,” he said. “A message of new life: After torture, after hardships, after tough conditions, there will be life. This is the main thing that we expect from Easter.”
Image: Hope amongst the rubble.
“Our Lord is risen. This gives a great hope, and we try to be just like Him: living a new life with Jesus Christ.”
Help Us To Stand Firm
“Please, support us spiritually,” Anis asked. “You now are aware of the fact that there are Christians here who are tormented. But we want to survive.”
So, please give us some morale support, so that we are able to stand firm in Iraq.”
Anis asks we pray for the safety of Christians in Qaraqosh so they can continue to stand firm in their faith and rebuild the church in Iraq.