This will be the seventh Christmas that 11-year-old Fakhri will celebrate away from home, his church and his friends. Fakhri and many other children who fled Mosul, Iraq, with their families years ago, barely remember what their homes looked like. They do, however, cherish the idea of a warm, secure, precious place called home. In that picture, there is no space for the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), the violent radicals who shattered their world.
Mosul fell under IS’s control in June 2014 after six days of fighting between the Islamic terrorists and Iraqi military forces. The city was finally liberated three years later. However, it is still not deemed to be safe for Christians to return.
In a Syriac Orthodox church in Erbil (fifty miles from Mosul) where they found refuge, Fakhri and 16 other children gather in a choir to practise Christmas songs. The church is very different from those that some of them vaguely remember from Mosul: instead of the beautiful architecture, frescoes and chandeliers, it is now a structure made of aluminium panels. However, the tree, nativity scene, blinking lights and music still make it feel like Christmas.
“I pray that there will be no terrorists in this world, so we can live in peace,” Fakhri says. Ten-year-old Mark continues, “I wish I would be able to go back to my church in Mosul.” Marina, 8, says, “I’d like to live like other children in the world in peace and love.”
Peace may not be what Mosul offers the children if they return home. The city, 250 miles north of Baghdad, is still considered to be dangerous.
Mosul is one of the cities in the Nineveh plains that used to be home to a vibrant Christian community. That is no longer true. The Christian population of the city was disproportionally affected by displacement following the violence.
Click here to read more.
SOOURCE: Assist News