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Iraq's Christians demand reconstruction of religious sites

Iraqi Christians demand the reconstruction of the Mar Mattai and Mar Behnam monasteries in the Ninevah Plains.
Fighters from the "Kataeb Babylon", a group of Christian fighters who fight alongside the Hashd Shabi, Shi'ite fighters, gather at the Mar Behnam monastery after the town was recaptured from the Islamic State, in Ali Rash, southeast of Mosul, Iraq November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani - RTSSP9F
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BAGHDAD — A new era has started in the northern Ninevah Plains, known for its ethnic and religious diversity, following the expulsion of the Islamic State (IS). IS took over the area in June 2014 and forced the Christians living there — estimated at more than 100,000 — to abandon their farms and towns and head to the neighboring Kurdistan Region and other areas in the country, or to leave Iraq altogether.

On May 16, the heads of the Christian churches told the media of their “concerns over the possible return of terrorism” and demanded that “the areas of the Ninevah Plains be protected by the United Nations and enjoy autonomy.” This fear, however, has not prevented many Christians from returning to their farms and cities and practicing religious rites in their monasteries and churches. During the Easter mass April 15 at the Mar Mattai Syriac Orthodox Monastery in Ninevah, Christians prayed for the safe return of the displaced to their homes and the spread of peace.

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