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Iraqi churches shoulder burden of reconstruction, for now

In Iraq, churches have taken the lead in persuading and helping Christians return to towns razed by the Islamic State.
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QARAQOSH, Iraq — “I was the first to repair my house and move back here,” said Archbishop Yohanna Petros Mouche of the Syriac Catholic Church in Qaraqosh. He gestured toward his home in the Christian town on the Ninevah Plains where fresh paint and new religious images now cover the scars of two years under the Islamic State. “We prepared this home and started celebrating religious ceremonies again to encourage people to return with their families. And when they saw it, they came too.”

Though Qaraqosh was liberated 18 months ago, civilians only started returning after the schools reopened in October. Mouche is working to attract as many Christians as possible to bring the town back to life. But it is also a fight against rumors. “When people say it is dangerous, I reply that there are many restaurants and shops, and people are enjoying life again,” he said.

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