For Iraq’s Christians, a bittersweet first Christmas home after Islamic State

Christians in the Iraqi town of Teleskof celebrated their Christmas traditions for the first time in three years, since Islamic State militants overran their town and forcibly displaced their community of 12,000.

A hymn not heard in three years echoed throughout the Church of Saint George in Telesqaf, Iraq, on Monday… as Christians returned home to celebrate Christmas for the first time since Islamic State overran their town.

Many of the 12,000 Chaldean Christians fled, with some 7,000 estimated to be scattered across Iraq and abroad.

The few who returned after Islamic State’s defeat praise God.

A Christian woman in the video, Raniq Kiryaqos, says:

“We have gotten through oppression and suppression over the past three years,” this woman says. “We went to places that were unlike our village. But thanks to God, we celebrate this year in our own village.”

Islamic State ravaged Christian areas across the region, looting and burning down homes and churches, while forcing Christians to convert, pay a tax or face death.

Despite the pain caused by their violent displacement, those who returned celebrated as best they could… even without many of their town’s residents.

One of the celebrants, Ristam Shamoon, says: 

“We hoped that all people of Telesqaf would be with us. But regrettably, about 50 percent of the population were not here, our relatives and friends. We wish that they were with us.”

A wish that could take time as the town returns to normal in life after Islamic State.