Easter Joy: Life Returns to Qaraqosh After ISIS Occupation
In 2014, we reported about the ISIS takeover of a predominantly Christian town on the Nineveh plain in Iraq called Qaraqosh. Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled as ISIS descended upon the town of 50,000. In 2017, after ISIS was removed, they began to come home again. Now, as the remnants celebrate Easter, life has returned to Qaraqosh.
Two and a half years of sadness
The jihadists did everything in their power to remove all signs of the presence of Christians. They burned and looted churches, houses, and shops. They tore down crosses. For two and half years they plundered and destroyed everything they could get their hands on. Christians were either forced to pay the Jizya tax, convert, or be killed.
Reuters reported in 2017 that the number of Christians in Iraq had fallen from 1.5 million to a few hundred thousand. Most of them who fled Qaraqosh ended up in Irbil, or found asylum in other countries. Last year, as the people slowly began to return, they arrived at a city nearly completely destroyed. Only about 25,000 of the original 50,000 people have come home.
— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) April 17, 2017
As of 2018, only 268 homes have been rebuilt in Qaraqosh, largely from the efforts of ministries like Open Doors and its partners. The ministry is also helping to rebuild 392 more homes on the Nineveh plain.
The Christian Post reported,
For the first time since the Islamic State terrorist group drove thousands of Christians from Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, the village of Qaraqosh is preparing to celebrate Easter as believers slowly return to their hometown.
Open Doors, a Christian ministry that operates in over 60 countries worldwide, shares the story of Anis Behnam, a 58-year-old university teacher who was among those forced to flee the predominantly Christian town four years ago.
The Christian man told Open Doors that Sunday will be the first time since moving back that he will again celebrate Easter in Qaraqosh — once the biggest Christian town in Iraq — symbolizing hope and rebirth.
“Easter is a message to humanity, a message of new life,” he said. “After torture, after hardships, after tough conditions, there will be life again. This is the main thing that we expect from Easter.”
“Our Lord has risen. This gives all of us great hope, and we try to be just like Him: living a new life with Jesus Christ,” he continued. “I cannot think of myself living elsewhere. I tried to do that, and I failed. So this the only place where I would like to be — just to stay here forever, to be useful in my community.”
For these persecuted Believers in Christ, this Easter is a time of new life and hope, just as the sacrifice of Jesus brings new life to those who accept Him as Savior. The residents of Qaraqosh live in the midst of Sunni Muslims, Shi’ite Muslims, and other smaller sects. For two thousand years they lived in relative peace until ISIS brought death and destruction. We pray for them a future filled with life once again.
Featured photo- Palm Sunday celebration in Qaraqosh via Twitter