A Christian mass took place this week in an Iraqi village for the first time since the Islamic State seized most of the Nineveh province in northern Iraq.
"We celebrated the Eucharist this Sunday in one of the Nineveh province's villages – the first time since locals were forced out last August by ISIS jihadists," Father Paulus Thabit Makku, a Chaldean priest, said.
The village has been free of ISIS control for about three months, but neighboring villages are still controlled by militants. Those villages are forced to submit to ISIS’ Islam or face taxation or death. ISIS militants take control of the churches in the villages and tear down crosses as they take over areas.
In Telskuf, where mass was held, the town was liberated from ISIS control in August by Kurdish forces. After mass, the men went back to a refugee camp.
"It was a way for us to express that we will not leave our land. We live in hope that we will soon return to our homes, villages and churches," Makku said.
Kurdish forces are working to liberate some of those villages controlled by ISIS to help Christians, but people have been afraid to return even after liberation.
Publication date: November 21, 2014