- Title: Christians celebrate Palm Sunday near Mosul for the first time in three years
- Date: 9th April 2017
- Summary: CHRISTIANS PACKING STREET NEAR CHURCH CHRISTIANS WALKING IN STREET WITH SOME HOLDING OLIVE BRANCHES MORE OF CHRISTIANS WALKING IN STREET
- Embargoed: 23rd April 2017 17:04
- Keywords: Iraq Mosul Qaraqosh church Palm Sunday Christians Islamic State
- Location: QARAQOSH, NEAR MOSUL, IRAQ
- City: QARAQOSH, NEAR MOSUL, IRAQ
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Religion/Belief,Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA0056BOFMMF
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Hundreds of Christians flocked to the Iraqi town of Qaraqosh on Sunday (April 9) to celebrate Palm Sunday for the first time in three years, packing into a church previously torched by Islamic State.
In October 2016, Iraqi forces expelled the Sunni Muslim militants from Qaraqosh as part of a campaign to retake nearby Mosul, the country's second-largest city seized by Islamic State in June 2014.
Iraq's biggest Christian settlement until the militants arrived, Qaraqosh has been a ghost town in recent years, with most residents still too afraid to return because the battle for Mosul, 20 kilometres away, is still raging.
Christians arrived for the mass from Erbil, the main city in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan where most Christian fled when Islamic State gave them an ultimatum to pay tax, convert or die.
Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul Butrus Moshe told worshippers in the Immaculate Conception Church on Sunday that reconciliation was needed.
Islamic State has targeted minority communities in both Iraq and Syria, setting churches on fire.
Scribbled Islamic State slogans could be still seen on the church walls while torn-up prayer books littered the floor.
Escorted by soldiers carrying rifles, the congregation then walked through Qaraqosh for Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week that culminates on Easter Sunday.
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