Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled their homes when ISIS took over Mosul in 2014. After more than two years, the militants has fled the town as Iraqi forces liberated the villages nestled in the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq. However, returning locals are uncertain on what the future will bring them, The Independent reports.

Several dozen Syrian Catholics held a mass in Aramaic in the half-burned church of St. Mary al-Tahira in Qaraqosh. The jihadi group burned the church and used the courtyard as a firing range.

Syriac Catholic Bishop of Baghdad Yusuf Abba called for cooperation and goodwill to all during his sermon. But, Christians are still traumatized by the disasters brought about by ISIS.

Qaraqosh was home to 44,000 Syriac Catholics who left the town to Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government. About 28,000 of them who stayed inside Iraq are uncertain whether to return to their homeland.

Yohanna Towara, a farmer, teacher and community leader in the town, said, “There is no security while Isis is still in Mosul. The priority is for us to control our local affairs and to know who will rule the area in which we live.”

In Keramlis, another Christian town, a group of believers returned to their parish Sunday to attend a prayer service and check on their homes, CBS News said.

The church bell tolled for the first time in over two years. “It was amazing, I got goose bumps. The bell for us means a great deal,” said Sahir Shamoun, an athletics teacher. However, some who returned felt that the future is dim.

“I feel great sadness,” Shamoun added. “I’m not sure when or if I’ll be back. I think of my children, will they have a future here?”

Sources:
Independentcouk. (2016). The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iraq-isis-christians-mosul-offensive-latest-jihadis-qaraqosh-church-fear-a7402966.html

Cbsnewscom. (2016). Cbsnewscom. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gasps-tears-as-group-of-iraqi-christians-return-to-isis-destroyed-parish/

Nprorg. (2016). NPRorg. http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/11/12/501752175/isis-is-gone-but-iraqi-christians-are-wary-of-returning-home

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