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Iraq: Christians return to burned out churches to celebrate Palm Sunday
11 April 2017
Christians celebrated Palm Sunday in the burned out church in Qaraqosh.
Hundreds of Christians celebrated Palm Sunday in Qaraqosh and Karamles, towns that were recently liberated from the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS).
Qaraqosh was Iraq's largest Christian town until its 50,000 inhabitants were forced to flee in August 2014. The displaced Christians haven't been able to move back to Qaraqosh since the liberation of the town, as there is continuing insecurity in the region, and houses and infrastructure have been destroyed.
But for one day, they were able to go back and celebrate their faith in Christ. Hundreds of Christians marched through the streets, some carrying big banners saying 'Blessed is who is coming in the name of the Lord, hallelujah' or 'Hosanna for the Son of David', others walking with palm leaves. They then held a church service in the burned and damaged church. "Thank God, we are returning to our towns and churches after two years," said one of the church leaders in Qaraqosh.
Christians marched through liberated Qaraqosh on Palm Sunday.
'We are waiting to return'
Karamles is a Christian village that was home to 800 Christian families before the invasion of IS; despite being liberated, the damage to the village means that families haven't been able to return yet. But Father Thabet, the local church leader, organised for the church to be cleaned and repaired in the week leading up to Palm Sunday so that displaced Christians could return to celebrate. Between 400 and 500 church members went to Karamles for the big Palm Sunday celebration.
Father Thabet said, "I am very happy we could do so. After the church service we had a meal on the hill of Saint Barbara. Seeing all the people made me cry. I was very happy to return and celebrate, this was very significant for me and for many people from Karamles."
He is planning to move a big generator to Karamles after Easter, so that families that want to begin repairing their homes will have access to electricity. A house next to the church is being turned into a Centre of Encouragement and Support, where people can stay while they work on their homes.
"But this week we will have our preparations for the celebration of Easter," Thabet says. "We will have that celebration in Ankawa. We already had the celebration at Palm Sunday and it takes much to organise going to our village."
Father Thabet is hopeful for the future: "This year we are waiting to return back to our place and we hope we can celebrate the full Easter next year in Karamles."
BRING HOPE TO THE MIDDLE EAST
By praying, giving and speaking out as part of the Hope for the Middle East campaign, Open Doors supporters are helping to keep hope alive for our church family in Iraq.
Open Doors local partners have provided vital aid for tens of thousands of displaced families, and are working to provide long-term support to our brothers and sisters as they begin to rebuild their lives, including helping families who wish to return to the Nineveh plain to rebuild their homes, and starting small businesses to give people the dignity of supporting their own families - like this sweet factory.
Here are three things you can do to support your church family in Iraq:
- Pray. Order a free Pray for ME resource pack to help you lead others in prayer for the church in Iraq and Syria.
- Give. Every £42 can provide an emergency food parcel to feed a family of five in Iraq or Syria for a month.
- Speak out. Sign the One Million Voices of Hope petition, asking for equality, dignity and responsibility for Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, which will be presented to the UN Secretary General in December. If you've already signed it, download a copy and ask others to sign it too.
- Praise God that Christians in Iraq are continuing to put their faith and hope in Jesus
- For provision for displaced families as they begin to rebuild their lives and consider trying to return to their destroyed villages
- For wisdom for Open Doors partners as they continue to support displaced Christians.
More News from Iraq:
- Sweet factory provides security and hope for Christian families
- 300 Christians celebrate Easter in liberated Bartella
- Stone factory brings hope as battle for Mosul continues
- Displaced Christians celebrate Christmas as they prepare to return home
- Martin returns to Karamles
Find out more about persecution in Iraq.