Amazing news! On Saturday, for the first time in over two years, the town of Bartella in Iraq heard the sound of church bells ringing.
The town was one of the communities which Islamic State (IS) overran in 2014. Now soldiers battling IS have retaken some of these Christian towns and villages. Sources in Iraq are reporting that Bartella and Qaraqosh have been freed from IS, while another Christian community, Karamles, is being fought over.
Church leaders who went back to Bartella found hymn books scattered on the ground, pews upturned and graffiti scrawled on the walls. On the walls of a church in Bartella, IS militants had scrawled a message: ‘Our God is higher than the cross.’ Other graffiti included ‘There is no god but Allah’, ‘Mohammed is the messenger of Allah’ and ‘The Islamic State will remain’.
But, in an act of defiance and hope, they insisted on ringing the church bells for the first time since the invasion.
As the battle for Mosul continues, the UN and other aid agencies are predicting a humanitarian crisis, with up to one million people expected to flee Mosul itself when the fighting reaches the city.
Open Doors partners are monitoring the situation and are planning how they will support displaced people to return to Mosul once it is safe for them to do so.
Because the truth is, that even with IS gone, they will be returning to devastated and destroyed communities. With your help we will be with these communities for the long-term. Their churches will need rebuilding, their homes will need to be restored. They have lost their possessions. But they want to return home.
Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray.
Because in one town, at least, the church bells are ringing again.
Source: Open Doors; BBC; Reuters
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