His small stage was cradled by several destroyed churches and a primary school, the cartoon murals scratched out by Islamic State militants. Just a few hundred metres away were the ravaged remains of the Nouri Mosque. It was here, in the summer of 2014, that Isis announced the unfurling of their caliphate and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi vowed to march on and conquer Rome.
A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have the pontiff sitting in Mosul’s Church Square, surrounded by children and families singing Christian songs and waving olive branches. As one young man, who lived under Isis in Mosul, tweeted (alongside his Isis charge sheet), he had been publicly flogged in Church Square six years ago for getting a crew cut, while Isis fighters shouted they would conquer Rome.
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