Iraqi Christians return to ransacked town with fear and hope

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST 17 Photos
1 / 17
An altar of a damaged church is seen in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq. With Islamic State expelled, Iraqi Christians are trickling back to the ransacked town of Qaraqosh, beset by anxiety for their security and yet hopeful they can live in friendship with Muslims of all persuasions. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

An altar of a damaged church is seen in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, Iraq. With Islamic State expelled, Iraqi Christians are trickling back to the ransacked town of Qaraqosh, beset by anxiety for their security and yet hopeful they can live in friendship with Muslims of all persuasions. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
2 / 17
A damaged statue is seen outside a church in the town of Qaraqosh. The town, about 20 km (12 miles) from the battlefront with Islamic State in the northern city of Mosul, shows why Christians have mixed feelings about the future of their ancient community. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

A damaged statue is seen outside a church in the town of Qaraqosh. The town, about 20 km (12 miles) from the battlefront with Islamic State in the northern city of Mosul, shows why Christians have mixed feelings about the future of their ancient community. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
3 / 17
People stand by a big cross in the town of Qaraqosh. In the desecrated churches of Qaraqosh, Christians are busy removing graffiti daubed by the Sunni Muslim militants during two and a half years of control - only for new slogans to have appeared, scrawled by Shi’ite members of the Iraqi forces fighting street to street with the jihadists in Mosul. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

People stand by a big cross in the town of Qaraqosh. In the desecrated churches of Qaraqosh, Christians are busy removing graffiti daubed by the Sunni Muslim militants during two and a half years of control - only for new slogans to have appeared, scrawled by Shi’ite members of the Iraqi forces fighting street to street with the jihadists in Mosul. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
4 / 17
Sabri, a restaurant owner, poses for a picture as he cleans his burnt-out restaurant. Encouraged by security checkpoints and patrols by a volunteer force, up to 10 Christian families have returned to what used to be the minority’s biggest community in Iraq until Islamic State seized it in 2014. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

Sabri, a restaurant owner, poses for a picture as he cleans his burnt-out restaurant. Encouraged by security checkpoints and patrols by a volunteer force, up to 10 Christian families have returned to what used to be the minority’s biggest community in Iraq until Islamic State seized it in 2014. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
5 / 17
An altar is seen inside a church. Iraqi forces pushed the group out of Qaraqosh in October, part of a six-month offensive to retake Mosul. But residents are worried that the Shi’ite slogans signal a new kind of sectarian division. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

An altar is seen inside a church. Iraqi forces pushed the group out of Qaraqosh in October, part of a six-month offensive to retake Mosul. But residents are worried that the Shi’ite slogans signal a new kind of sectarian division. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
6 / 17
A woman walks past a big cross at the entrance of the town of Qaraqosh. Shi’ites in the Iraqi government forces and paramilitary groups, mostly from further south in the country, has scribbled such slogans on buildings all over Mosul too. Soldiers have also hoisted the flag of Ali in the city and on their on military vehicles. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

A woman walks past a big cross at the entrance of the town of Qaraqosh. Shi’ites in the Iraqi government forces and paramilitary groups, mostly from further south in the country, has scribbled such slogans on buildings all over Mosul too. Soldiers have also hoisted the flag of Ali in the city and on their on military vehicles. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
7 / 17
A wall damaged by bullets fired by Islamic State militants is seen inside a church yard. Shi’ites regard Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, and the prophet’s grandson Hussein as his true successors. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

A wall damaged by bullets fired by Islamic State militants is seen inside a church yard. Shi’ites regard Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, and the prophet’s grandson Hussein as his true successors. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
8 / 17
A damaged religious statue is seen inside a church. Most Sunnis, who are the dominant community in Mosul, have shrugged off the Shi’ite slogans as the work of a handful of religious zealots but Christians take them as a signal that their future remains uncertain. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

A damaged religious statue is seen inside a church. Most Sunnis, who are the dominant community in Mosul, have shrugged off the Shi’ite slogans as the work of a handful of religious zealots but Christians take them as a signal that their future remains uncertain. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
9 / 17
A church that was damaged by Islamic State militants. Those families who have returned to Qaraqosh - once home to 50,000 people - are trying to revive Christian life dating back two millennia. However, most stay only two or three days at a time to refurbish their looted and burnt homes. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

A church that was damaged by Islamic State militants. Those families who have returned to Qaraqosh - once home to 50,000 people - are trying to revive Christian life dating back two millennia. However, most stay only two or three days at a time to refurbish their looted and burnt homes. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
10 / 17
A religious book is seen inside a church. By contrast, displaced Muslims have been flocking back to markets in eastern Mosul since Islamic State’s ejection from that part of the city, despite the battle raging in the Old City across the Tigris River which is the militants’ last stronghold. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

A religious book is seen inside a church. By contrast, displaced Muslims have been flocking back to markets in eastern Mosul since Islamic State’s ejection from that part of the city, despite the battle raging in the Old City across the Tigris River which is the militants’ last stronghold. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
11 / 17
A picture of Pope Francis is seen inside a church. Numbers of Christians in Iraq have fallen from 1.5 million to a few hundred thousand since the violence which followed the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

A picture of Pope Francis is seen inside a church. Numbers of Christians in Iraq have fallen from 1.5 million to a few hundred thousand since the violence which followed the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
12 / 17
An empty house stands in the town of Qaraqosh. Many Baghdad residents who could not afford to go abroad went to Qaraqosh and other northern towns where security used to be better than in the capital, rocked by sectarian warfare after the U.S.-led invasion. But with the arrival of Islamic State, residents abandoned their homes with some applying for asylum in Europe. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

An empty house stands in the town of Qaraqosh. Many Baghdad residents who could not afford to go abroad went to Qaraqosh and other northern towns where security used to be better than in the capital, rocked by sectarian warfare after the U.S.-led invasion. But with the arrival of Islamic State, residents abandoned their homes with some applying for asylum in Europe. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
13 / 17
A damaged statue of Jesus Christ is seen inside a church. Germany alone took in 130,000 Iraqis, among them many Christians, in 2015 and 2016. But, most ended up in Erbil with relatives or in homes paid for by aid agencies. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

A damaged statue of Jesus Christ is seen inside a church. Germany alone took in 130,000 Iraqis, among them many Christians, in 2015 and 2016. But, most ended up in Erbil with relatives or in homes paid for by aid agencies. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
14 / 17
Steve Ibrahim, an alcohol shop owner, smokes in the town. Supermarkets and restaurants remain closed in Qaraqosh, with windows smashed and burnt furniture strewn across floors. One of the few businesses to have reopened is Steve Ibrahim’s alcohol shop in the town centre; in the absence of cafes it has become a meeting point for local people. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

Steve Ibrahim, an alcohol shop owner, smokes in the town. Supermarkets and restaurants remain closed in Qaraqosh, with windows smashed and burnt furniture strewn across floors. One of the few businesses to have reopened is Steve Ibrahim’s alcohol shop in the town centre; in the absence of cafes it has become a meeting point for local people. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
15 / 17
Chemicals used by Islamic State militants to produce bombs are seen inside a warehouse at a church. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

Chemicals used by Islamic State militants to produce bombs are seen inside a warehouse at a church. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
16 / 17
A Iraqi solider stands by a flag with a cross at a check point. Whether more Christians can live permanently in Qaraqosh depends on whether the security forces win their trust. Army and police have tried to ease fears by stationing soldiers in front of churches, and even helping Christian volunteers to set up a massive cross at the town’s entrance. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

A Iraqi solider stands by a flag with a cross at a check point. Whether more Christians can live permanently in Qaraqosh depends on whether the security forces win their trust. Army and police have tried to ease fears by stationing soldiers in front of churches, and even helping Christian volunteers to set up a massive cross at the town’s entrance. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
17 / 17
Drawings are seen on a wall in the town. On Palm Sunday last weekend, soldiers escorted a procession in preparation for Easter, Christianity’s most important festival, and provided chairs for worshippers during Mass. Some Christian policemen joined in, singing “Hallelujah” with civilians. But walking along rows of burnt out homes and supermarkets, others were still afraid. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

Drawings are seen on a wall in the town. On Palm Sunday last weekend, soldiers escorted a procession in preparation for Easter, Christianity’s most important festival, and provided chairs for worshippers during Mass. Some Christian policemen joined in, singing “Hallelujah” with civilians. But walking along rows of burnt out homes and supermarkets, others were still afraid. (Marko Djurica/Reuters)

PUBLISHED ON APR 15, 2017 01:49 PM IST
SHARE
Story Saved