There were tears, soldiers praying and priests singing. This was the moment thousands of Iraqi Christians had been waiting for: the Cross, symbol of Christ’s victory over evil and deemed illegal by ISIL, had returned to the Christian villages in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain.
In Christian villages such as Karamles and Qaraqosh, just half an hour’s drive east of Mosul, the priests were among the first non-combatants to return after the villages had been liberated from ISIL occupation.
Father Thabet, who lives with his congregation in a complex for internally displaced people in Erbil, brought a man size Cross, covered with flowers, with him when he returned to his home village of Karamles.
“I am so happy I can do this. I’m smiling from cheek to cheek and I weep tears of joy at the same time. This is the trip I have been praying for, for two years now,” he said.
He climbed Barbara Hill, next to his village, and planted the Cross firmly in the ground overlooking Karamles.
“My dream is to bring all the Christians back to this village. Then we will worship outside on Barbara Hill; we will have the Eucharist in the open air. Everybody will see that this is the Church; this is the Body of Christ; this is Christian land. That is my dream – to give a testimony to the world,” he said.
The same goes for the village of Qaraqosh, visited by Father Ammar. He reinstated the Cross on his church, helped by Christian soldiers guarding the village after it had been liberated.
“I praise God for this wonderful day,” he said. “Yes, they destroyed and burned some houses and churches, but we can rebuild them. What counts is that we have prayed here and have put up the Cross.
“After being away for exactly 811 days, after being attacked by the forces of darkness and evil, we have come back to worship in freedom.”
- Give thanks for the liberation of these Christians villages across the Nineveh Plains of Iraq.
- Give thanks for the faith of the priests from these villages, and the prayers that have enabled the Cross of Jesus to once again be lifted high over this region.
- Pray for the safe return of the villagers, for the rebuilding of churches and homes, that this region will resound once more with the sound of praise.
- Pray for protection for Christians in Iraq, as the security and political situation is far from being restored.
- Pray for Iraq, for many to hear the testimony of these villages, to see the power of the Cross of Jesus and come to know Him as Saviour and Lord of this land.
Colossians 1 vs 20: “and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.“