Christians gather to celebrate Christmas in Mosul church for first time since Isis driven out

'Our faith and our hope was to be here to evangelise on our earth and in our town,' says Father Thabet Habib 

Maya Oppenheim
Sunday 24 December 2017 17:53
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Prior to the advance of IS in 2014, church leaders predicted there was a Christian community of 35,000 in Mosul
Prior to the advance of IS in 2014, church leaders predicted there was a Christian community of 35,000 in Mosul

A church in the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul has hosted a Christmas service for the first time since the city was set free from Isis.

Saint Paul’s Church, which at present is the only functioning church in Mosul, celebrated Christmas mass on Sunday despite being subject to stringent security.

At least 100 Christians attended the service in east Mosul and there were large numbers of Muslims who came to show support to their friends and neighbours.

A portrait of a Christian killed under Isis rule was shown outside the church to serve as a painful reminder of the city's difficult recent history.

Iraqi forces expelled the jihadist group from Mosul in July after months of brutal fighting.

Under Isis, practising Christian traditions in public was dangerous. The group forced worshippers to make the conversion to Islam, pay a tax or be faced with death, so many Christians wound up fleeing persecution.

Christians in the congregation at Saint Paul’s argued it was imperative Christians established their place in the city's future following three years of persecution.

“Our faith and our hope was to be here to evangelise on our earth and in our town,” Father Thabet Habib told The Telegraph. “This pushed us to come here and to celebrate the mass and to tell all the world that we are here as Christians.”

Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadia hailed the three-year campaign to drive Isis out of Iraq as a success.

Prior to the advance of Isis in 2014, church leaders predicted there was a Christian community of 35,000 in Mosul.

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