Assyrian and Chaldean Christians have returned to their heartlands to celebrate Christmas in parts of northern Iraq for the first time since the routing of Islamic State, Reuters reports.
Like every other resident of Teleskof, this was Daoud’s first
Christmas back home in three years, since Islamic State militants
overran her town and forcibly displaced its 12,000-strong Chaldean
Faced with a choice to convert, pay a tax or die,
Daoud, like many other Christians in the Nineveh Plains, chose to flee.
Most sought refuge in nearby towns and cities, but many sought permanent
asylum abroad. Though the militants were only in Teleskof for a few
days, residents only began returning home earlier this year.
Sunday, they celebrated their first Christmas together again at the
town’s main church, which was overflowing. Hundreds of congregants,
dressed in their finest, poured in to pray and receive communion from
Father Salar Bodagh, who later lit the traditional bonfire in the
church’s courtyard, a symbol of renewal he said.
the obvious joys of being able to celebrate openly once again, it was a
bittersweet Christmas for most across the Nineveh Plains, the epicentre
of Iraq’s ancient Christian communities which can trace their history
in the country back two millennia.
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