As we gather with families and friends this Thanksgiving in gratitude for life, liberty, and the gift of living in a country where fundamental human rights are protected, let us also remember our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq.

The churches that these communities once worshiped in and the houses that they once lived in have been destroyed and desecrated.

In this video you can watch Christians returning to Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian town, and celebrating Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, once the largest Church of Iraq, for the first time.

Fire has blackened the interior of the church, the altar has been vandalized, and the face of Jesus on the nearby statue has been smashed.

The bell that once summoned 3,000 people to Mass on Sundays is gone, it has been ripped from its chain and the belfry has been broken.

ISIS graffiti covers the walls and songbooks lie burned on the ground. But the priests, undeterred, make their way to the center of the Church, and a small gathering of Christians unite around them to celebrate the faith that has sustained them through their suffering. The darkness is dispelled as candles–lit with the hope of a brighter future–burn and as the voices of the priests echo through the precinct.
For over two years the Christians of Qaraqosh have been deprived of their place of worship. After ISIS stormed into Mosul in June 2014, the city and the adjoining Nineveh region was soon overrun. By August, they had taken Qaraqosh, forcing its 50,000 inhabitants to abandon the town and Nineveh was emptied of Christians. For the first time since the 7th century AD, no church bells rang for Mass in the Plain of Nineveh.

Let us commit this Thanksgiving to helping the Christians of Nineveh rebuild, and to ensuring that the bells in the birthplace of Christianity will toll once again.

Please consider donating to In Defense of Christians as we advocate for the rebuilding of the Nineveh Plain and the protection and preservation of Christianity in the Middle East.

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