Mosul, Iraq, Nov 22, 2016 / 00:08 am
Two years after the sound of church bells was replaced by the sound of explosives in Bashiqa, Iraq, just north of Mosul, Christians are again celebrating Mass after forcing the Islamic State out of their homeland.
Christian liturgies have been celebrated yet again in the Church of Mar Korkeis, after Bashiqa was taken back by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters Nov. 7, according to Reuters. The event marked the first time that Christian liturgies were permitted in the town since it was seized by the Islamic State in August 2014.
Once the area was taken by the Islamic State, minorities such as Christians were forced to choose between persecution, conversion, or fleeing to autonomous Kurdish-controlled regions nearby. After taking Mosul, one of the largest cities in Iraq, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate within Iraq and Syria.
Christianity has been present in the Nineveh plain in Iraq - where Mosul and Bashiqa are located - since the first century. However, since the ousting of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Christians have been fleeing the region. The Islamic State takeover of Mosul drove Christians from the area for the first time in almost two millennia.