Christians in Iraq Celebrated Palm Sunday in Liberated Villages
On Palm Sunday, hundreds of Christians marched through the streets of Qaraqosh and Karamles in Iraq.
Some carrying big banners with texts like, “Blessed is He Who is coming in the Name of the Lord, hallelujah,” or “Hosanna for the Son of David.” Others walked with leaves of palm trees, like on that day about 2,000 years ago when Jesus entered Jerusalem, and people sang Hosanna.
For one day, the inhabitants of these mainly Christian towns were back in their place to celebrate Palm Sunday.
They attended mass in the burned and partly damaged churches. “Thank God, we are returning to our towns and churches after two years,” said one of the priests in Qaraqosh.
Christians, not only in Qaraqosh but also in other liberated villages and towns in the Nineveh Plain, celebrated Palm Sunday.
On the faces of the people in Qaraqosh and Karamles, there was happiness and thankfulness. Until August 2014, Qaraqosh was the biggest Christian town in Iraq. Before the extremists forced the Christian to flee, they had some 50,000 inhabitants. Before the war, there were around 800 Christian families in Karamles. All these people were displaced, most to Erbil and more specifically to the Christian neighborhood in Ankawa.
Liberated in the fall of 2016, the destruction by ISIS is still evident everywhere you look: burnt churches and razed houses. Because of the destruction of the houses and also the security situation, return to the villages and town wasn’t yet possible.
On Palm Sunday the churches in the Middle East traditionally go out on the streets and walk after mass in a public procession.
Father Thabet, the local priest of Karamles, organized a church clean up the week before Palm Sunday. The church building in this town was set afire by the ISIS.
“Last week we also did some repairs in the church. For the first time we were able to use the house next to the church, the house that will be used as Center of Encouragement and Support,” the priest says. “We used a small generator to have electricity.”
On Sunday, a caravan of cars and buses with some 400 to 500 church members went to Karamles for the big Palm Sunday celebration. “I am very happy we could do so. After mass, we had a meal on the hill of Saint Barbara. Seeing all the people made me cry. I was very happy to return and celebrate mass. This was very significant for me and many people from Karamles.”
The priest is planning to move a big generator to Karamles after Easter. This is so that electricity will be available for those who want to start restoring their houses and temporarily stay in the Center of Encouragement and Support. “After that, we will start to restore the first houses.”