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.
In the fall of 2016, two years after the Islamic State claimed the Nineveh territory, Iraqi forces made considerable military gains and liberated the Nineveh Plain. Many scattered families were able to return to their towns.
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.
In an interview Tuesday with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Bashir Warda of Erbil said 125,000 Christians lost their homes and businesses in the wake of the Islamic State's takeover.
"Our tormentors confiscated our present while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future," the archbishop told ACN.
"This was an exceptional situation, but not an isolated one. It was part of the recurring cycle of violence in the Middle East over 1,400 years," he said.
"With each successive cycle," he added, "the number of Christians falls away, till today we are at the point of extinction."