A joint initiative undertaken by Iraqis in northern Iraq sees Muslims celebrate Mass with their Christian brothers and sisters
Last week, Christians and Muslims from northern Iraq came together to celebrate Mass at the Saint Behnam and Saint Sarah Church in Qaraqosh.
Qaraqosh, which is also known as Bakhdida in Syriac and Hamdaniyah in Arabic based on its different Assyrian Christian and Arab names, is located in the Nineveh Plains, a diverse area located southwest of Mosul. A large number of minority groups inhabit this area including Shabak and Yazidi populations.
Many of these groups were persecuted and attacked by ISIS militants who considered these populations, their religion and way of life as heretical and against their own puritanical ideology.
The journey undertaken by the largely Muslim population who travelled to Qaraqosh represents the first of its kind since the defeat of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq.
Many of the attendees were thankful to their Muslim brothers and sisters for making the journey to Qaraqosh for the Mass, and emphasised unity in the face of the ISIS scourge that attempted to tear the fabric of Iraq’s diverse ethno-religious make-up.
“This mass is of course important for us. Our Muslim brothers also joined us at the mass,” said one woman, speaking after the Mass. “We care about Muslims as there is no difference between a Christian and a Muslim. We came together as Iraqis and that’s why it’s importance for us”.
The woman also emphasised that ISIS not only killed people belonging to these minority populations and desecrated their religious sites, but also targeted Muslims and destroyed mosques such as the Grand Mosque of al-Nuri, which had stood for over 800 years.
The site of Muslims and Christians standing together in solidarity with one another is a positive sign for the future, especially in eradicating extremist ideology. As the priest who led the service said afterwards: “If we want to be open with one another, then we must work together to eliminate this extreme ideology. It is an ideology that does not tolerate others or care for life and it destroys anything beautiful in this life whether it belongs to a Christian, Yazidi, other minorities or even our Muslim brothers”.