Christians in the Nineveh Plains feel a sense of joy during Christmas celebrations despite the destruction of their homes under ISIS. Residents confirmed that they have the determination and will, to bring life back to their areas.
Shops in the city of Bakhdida in the Nineveh Plains, northern Iraq, are decked with Christmas decorations and ornaments, signalling the arrival of the holiday seasons for Christians living in the area. One year after the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) defeated ISIS in Iraq in December 2017, the residents of the Nineveh Plains can celebrate their holidays without fear.
According to locals, the city of Bakhdida, a majority Christian city in the Nineveh Plains, was destroyed by the militant group, which showed hostility towards minorities, including Iraq’s Christians.
“We returned and were shocked because Bakhdida was destroyed, including our churches and homes,” said Zaid Hazim, a member of the “Cry for Hope” Youth Group. “We all returned with determination and will to rebuild. We, the youth of the Cry of Hope, insisted on this feast to convey a message that change begins with us.”
The message that the residents wanted to convey is that despite the destruction of their city, they are determined to practice their faith and celebrate their holidays, which were banned for at least three years during the militant group’s dark reign.
“It’s the joy of Christmas, and what you see happening is spontaneously [done] due to this joy,” said Saman Habib, a citizen of Bakhdida.
During their control over the area, ISIS persecuted the minorities in the Nineveh Plains forcing many to be displaced and seek refuge in other countries. However, since the liberation of their neighbourhoods, many Christians, Ezidis and other groups have returned to their homes to rebuild their cities and bring normalcy back.
The holiday season, which is taking place right now in Iraq, is a definite proof that Iraqis of all backgrounds are attempting to revive religious and cultural traditions, which show unity and coexistence.
Furthermore, over the past year, local organisations and volunteers began rehabilitating houses of worship to show that the country is determined to bring back its citizens while guaranteeing their right to worship and live side by side with other religious and ethnic groups.