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'Everything is Possible with Jesus': Iraqi Christians Demonstrate Stunning Faith by Forgiving ISIS Captors

Lindsay Elizabeth : Aug 29, 2018

"The people have suffered greatly; for three years as refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan they faced many difficulties. But they have a faith that has enabled them to overcome everything, although not without difficulty ... This faith also makes it possible for them to truly live this forgiveness." -Father Salar Kajo from the NRC

[] Four years ago, ISIS militants were sweeping through Iraq, completely decimating all that was in their path, sparing no one. Christians in the Ninevah Plains fled for their lives, some making it to other countries, where they would live for years, others not making it safely. (Photo source: CBN/Stivan Shany/via Faithwire)

But now, after four years, the 140,000 Christians that lived in the Ninevah Plains are finally returning to their homes.

The Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world, has been working to aid persecuted Christians in the Middle East since the mass purge of Christians from the Ninevah Plains first started taking place.

"The program was to eliminate the population and to also eliminate the historical memory—to get the people who lived there out of there," Andrew Walther of the Knights of Columbus stated.

Walther pointed out that not only were Christians displaced from their homes, but their homes were also destroyed—rather quickly, he noted.

"This is why they blew up Roman ruins in Palmyra. This is why they blew up the tomb of Jonah. This is why they had a systematic destruction of Christian cemeteries, of Christian churches, and the desecration of Christian graves," Walther stated.

The Nineveh Plains hold much significance for Middle Eastern Christians, and for over 2,000 years, they were home to Assyrian Christians, until ISIS drove them out.

"When ISIS swept through northern Iraq they decimated the Christian population. They gave people the option to convert, die or in some cases flee," Walther explained. "ISIS wanted to stamp out any kind of difference and as a result, they undertook a program that didn't just remove people. It also removed property. It also removed anything that spoke to an earlier culture."

ISIS dominated the Ninevah Plains for the next two years, destroying everything they could, including over 13,000 homes and 263 church buildings.

"[ISIS' goal was to] also blow up monuments, to blow up churches, to blow up things that indicated a religious belief that was at odds or just different from ISIS," Walther added.

Four years after the original invasion, the terror group has finally been driven out of the region, but the rebuilding process has only begun.

"It's sort of a town by town basis, some towns have been sort of ethnically cleansed and resettled, other towns are still armed camps and war zones where the original population can't move back in," said Walther, who has traveled extensively across Iraq.

"Some of the towns still have problems with unexploded ordinance, with mines, with things that make it impossible to move back," he added.

Even though the destruction is immense and the task daunting, many Christians are finding their way back to their homes with the help of groups like the Knights of Columbus. They began their involvement in 2014, helping families return to their homes in Karamels, a small town in the plains.

"This was a town that had hundreds of families, all of whom had been forcibly displaced by ISIS, and when the town was liberated, it was in a terrible state," Walther said.

"The Knights of Columbus were able to put in about $2 million to move hundreds of families back home, to help them repair their homes and [to help them] get on with their lives, to pick up the pieces, and to help preserve the multicultural pluralism that has existed in the Christian communities in Iraq for well over a thousand years," he added.

On August 7, people in Karamles threw an event in remembrance of their exodus out of Nineveh, and now, in celebration of their return.

"[This] celebration was not the remembrance of an awful event," Paul Thabit Mekko, a Christian leader in Karamles said. "[This] was a time to read the past with new eyes and a new spirit, with a real hope. What seemed impossible has become possible and we hope that other steps will follow."

Father Salar Kajo has been instrumental in rebuilding villages in the Nineveh Plains, working with the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC). The NRC has already rebuilt nine different villages, allowing families to start to settle back into their lives before ISIS took over.

"The Church is the only organization working with the Christians of Iraq and the other minorities to recover their homes," Kajo wrote on the group's website. "If these families do not return to their homes, Christianity will disappear from Iraq"... Subscribe for free to Breaking Christian News here.

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