It’s Christmas time also in Iraq.
Christmas trees, nativity scenes and other religious symbols are back in the Christian territories of the Nineveh Plain. They had been missing for two years, when ISIS’ black flags lifted by DAESH fighters replaced the crosses.
Qaraqosh, Karemlash and Bartella are destroyed but the Nineveh Protection Unit (NPU) soldiers want to restore their traditions.
This Christian community, one of the most ancient Christian communities and respected for the last centuries by other religions, wants to give a message to the international community and to the central government of Baghdad: these were Christian territories and these should continue to be Christian territories.
The message is also addressed to Christian refugees who managed to escape ISIS and who are now in Erbil, capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan. Almost 120,000 Christians escaped ISIS, while others were slaughtered.
The return of Christians is a problem. Many of them are traumatised and scared to come back to their own towns. Their old houses have been destroyed and burnt and many of them even saw their neighbours welcoming ISIS.
For Christmas night, a Holy Mass will take place in the refugee camp in Akawa, the Christian quarter of Erbil. A few days ago Christian children even had a party there, singing Christmas carols fearless, without hiding themselves.
The Christmas spirit is felt even a few kilometres from the frontline, with the hope to celebrate one day again at their own home.
Photo and video credits: Nineveh Protection Unit (NPU) and Shlama Foundation