Christian refugees yearn to return to Nineveh as Easter approaches

Christian refugees who fled Nineveh in the heat of the Islamic State's atrocities more than two years ago are now praying for peace and are yearning to return to their homeland, especially during this time when Easter is fast approaching.

(REUTERS / Zohra Bensemra)A displaced Iraqi woman who just fled her home lies down at Special forces base as she waits to be transported to the refugees camp while Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants in western Mosul, Iraq February 27, 2017.

Aniseh Marqus and her husband Jamil spent the last two Easters away from their home in Batma, Nineveh province, but she said they were lucky to escape the violence in the hands of ISIS militants. The Christian refugee, who has been staying in a simple room in Alqosh, said many others who were left behind were not as lucky, Rudaw relays.

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"They bombed the church in our neighborhood and destroyed everything around it. My home was nearby so naturally it was destroyed too," Marqus shared. "I wish I could return home, but I have no home left really."

Right now, the Marqus family is planning to join other Christians and refugees in Alqosh for their third Easter celebration as refugees.

"The essential principle of Easter is not fasting after all," said Alqosh priest Gabiri Georges. "It is doing well."

When ISIS wreaked havoc in Batma and Talsqof in the middle of 2014, more than 500 Christians fled and sought shelter in Alqosh. As of now, some of the refugees have made their way home, but there are also others who have chosen to leave the country and live a new life in another place. There are still many who are displaced in Kurdish territories.

Hind Jijji, a Christian refugee who recently returned to the Iraqi town of Qaraqosh after it was liberated from ISIS, said she no longer wants to live in that place again. She told Voice of America that she does not want to be near the people who chose to live under the Islamist group's rule.

Like Jijji, many Christians think life in their Iraqi hometowns will never be the same again even after ISIS has been driven out. They think it will be difficult to rebuild the Christian community in the rest of Iraq because there are so many believers who no longer want to return.

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