There were a little over 100 people present at Mar Shimoni Cathedral, mostly survivors of ISIS' reign, along with a few of the returned refugees and their families. Nafal Hamadi, the provincial governor, and Iraqi General Abdulghani Assadi were also in attendance, as were a few soldiers of the Christian Brigade attached to Hezbollah.
"I can never describe our happiness and everything," a female congregant told an Al-Manar News reporter, "We feel like life returned to us." The reporter learned that the woman's house had been destroyed by ISIS, but some of her family brought her to Bartella from a refugee camp. The local priest also arranged for a bus from the camp to bring refugees who wished to attend.
Al-Manar stated that ISIS thugs had caused extensive damage to the church building, which they had converted for some of their own sinister uses. Before evacuating Bartella, the fiends set the building on fire. A group of volunteers worked to restore the church in time for Christmas.
"We are sending the message that we are staying in this country and that these are our roots and our origins." Father Jacob Saadi, the priest at Mar Shimoni told the press.
Iraq is home to one of the world's most ancient Christian communities. The first missionaries to the area were led by St. Thomas the Apostle who built the first church and founded Christian schools there sometime during the mid-1st Century.
Though now liberated from ISIS, there is tremendous rebuilding work that needs to be done in Bartella and in Iraq in general. The Christian population of Iraq has suffered terribly since a US-backed 'regime change' overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003. Not only were Christians ethnically cleansed by ISIS, but the Bush/Obama Occupation often turned a blind eye to local anti-Christian pogroms and persecutions. A government that considers Christmas greetings to be a form of harassment is unlikely to care much about what happens to Christians.
But for the first time in over a decade, Iraqi Christians are seeing hope. With the imminent disappearance of both the Wahhabi Jihadists and the effete Obama Administration from Iraqi soil, there is reason to believe that Iraq will rise again as a regional power. Iraqi Christianity certainly didn't survive for 21 centuries because it was composed of weaklings.
Christmas Returns to Mosul