Christians of Qaraqosh celebrate first Palm Sunday since IS invasion

Christians in the devastated Iraqi town of Qaraqosh have celebated Palm Sunday for the first time since they were driven from the town by Islamic State in 2014.

Thousands of Christians processed through the town yesterday waving palm and olive branches, Open Doors reported.

Andraws was among thousands celebrating Palm Sunday in Qaraqosh yesterday.Open Doors International

According to 25-year-old teach Andraws: 'Today is the start of the week of Easter. And we are very excited about it. I'm glad that we can celebrate Palm Sunday again in our city. Thank God for that. Because three years ago, something like that would never happen when we were displaced.'

The procession ended with an open-air service in the square of Qaraqosh's St John's Church.

Andraws said: 'Please do not lose hope. Two-and-a-half years we were displaced and we almost lost hope to ever return here. But today, we are here again, because of Jesus; because we had hope in Him. As you can see the Christians have returned to Qaraqosh!'

He and his family moved back to Qaraqosh last spring having rebuilt their house, which had been completely destroyed by IS fights.

The town sits in the Nineveh Plain, formely the Christian heartland of the country. While some rebuilding has begun, tens of thousands remain displaced because their homes are in ruins or because they are afraid to return.

Iraq is number eight on the Open Doors World Watch List of places where it is most difficult to be a Christian.