The ancient Markorkis Church in the village of Bartella in the Nineveh Plains, has re-opened its doors for worshipers returning to their area. The Church was rehabilitated by the Iraqi Government, donors, and civil society organisations.
The ancient Syriac Markorkis Church in Bartella has opened its doors once again after months of efforts by locals to rebuild the church. The ancient church, which is also referred to as “St. George’s Church,” is one of six Churches in Bartella, an Assyrian town 21 kilometers east of Mosul. In August 2014, ISIS invaded the town, forcing the majority of the town’s residents to flee Bartella. The militant organisation set fire to the Church and destroyed the Church’s bells, statues, and crosses. After the liberation of Bartella from ISIS, the St. George Church was the first Church to be rebuilt by individual and private efforts.
“Today we are overjoyed with the opening of this church. Before it was burnt and destroyed by ISIS, but now thank God, all the organisations have repaired it and prepared it,” said an elderly Churchgoer from Bartella.
Since the liberation of Mosul and the surrounding towns, individual efforts have been made to rehabilitate and restore Churches in order to encourage Iraqi Christians to return to their areas. “[Rebuilding the Church] will enable us to continue our path and return, after residents of these areas from Bartella, from the Nineveh Plains and some other areas and provinces across Iraq, have returned, “says Jalal Yako, a Syriac Priest from the nearby town of Hamdaniya. “Hopefully they all return, and their homes return as well.”
During its reopening ceremony, the church created a museum, which showed images of the destruction that was incurred on the church as a reminder to the future generations of ISIS’ brutality.
Since its reopening, the Church has conducted many summer programs for the children of Bartella supported through donations from private donors and civil society.
The reopening of churches throughout the Nineveh Plains is a positive step forward for the return of minorities to their homes, as it shows that there is an effort made to preserve their heritage and places of worship.