Thousands of Christians celebrated Palm Sunday in Iraq’s Ninevah Plain over the weekend, marking the first time the celebration has been held since ISIS drove all Christians from the area in 2014.
Beautiful. Now that ISIS has been defeated, thousands of Christian families have returned to the Iraqi town of Qaraqosh to celebrate Palm Sunday for the first time in 4 years. #Iraq pic.twitter.com/22Yje9pTUl
— Sarah Abdallah (@sahouraxo) March 27, 2018
Not one Western media outlet on hand as Christians return for Palm Sunday in the largest town outside Mosul captured by ISIS. A remarkable perseverance. This photo by Iraqi photojournalist Gemayel Cefajamil. More to come in upcoming @WORLD_mag pic.twitter.com/gu9Vg57tqN
— Mindy Belz (@mcbelz) March 28, 2018
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
“Iraqi Christians walked through the streets of the ancient town, waving palm and olive branches … Their chorus: ‘King of kings and Lord of Lords. Glory! Hallelujah!'” reported on-the-ground teams from Open Doors USA, a group that supports persecuted Christians worldwide.
According to Open Doors, one 25-year-old man named Andraws gave a message to Christians around the world: “Please do not lose hope,” he said.
“Two and a half years we were displaced and we almost lost hope to ever return here. But today, we are here again, because of Jesus; because we had hope in Him.”
See his interview below:
In 2014, ISIS controlled more than 34,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq, from the Mediterranean coast to south of Baghdad, CNN reported.
In November of last year, the Iraqi military “fully liberated” Iraq from ISIS control.
“Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border,” Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on his Twitter account.
“We defeated Daesh (ISIS) through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people.”
At the time, the U.S. department celebrated the announcement, but said the work is not over.
“The United States, along with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, will continue to partner with the Iraqi Security Forces, advising, training, and equipping them. Together, we must be vigilant in countering all extremist ideologies to prevent the return of ISIS or the emergence of threats by other terrorist groups,” stated department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
“Working ‘by, with, and through’ the Government of Iraq, we will continue to help our displaced Iraqi friends return to their communities and support them as they begin to reestablish their lives. We remain committed to standing with the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi people to stabilize areas liberated from ISIS control.”
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