Battle for Mosul looms: Pray for those trapped there, says Open Doors

Smoke rises from clashes with Islamic State militants on the southeast of Mosul, Iraq.Reuters

The anti-persecution charity Open Doors is urging Christians to pray for Mosul as forced gather to begin the fight to take the Iraqi territory back from Islamic State.

Christian refugees from the Nineveh Plains are calling for a Christian region or province to be set up in Iraq to provide long-term stability after Islamic State has been defeated and expelled.

Father Jamil Gorgis, a local priest in Dohuk, where about 75,000 Christians from Mosul have found refuge, told Rudaw: "Almost all Christian refugees who come to my Church to pray would favour to live in a Christian region or province under international protection."

Most of Iraq's 1.5 million Christians have fled in the last decade and it is thought there could now be as few as 200,000. More than hundred churches and monasteries in Mosul have been destroyed by Islamic State in just two years.

Mosul was taken by Islamic State two years ago but there are many indicators that an offensive to seize it back will be launched soon. 

Martin, a Christian youth leader who was among those who had to leave the Mosul, said: "Of course we want to go back to our houses, unlock the doors and start rebuilding. Now we are just praying it will be liberated soon."

 Open Doors is asking for prayers that God will enable the coalition forces to liberate Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, that humanitarian disaster be avoided and that displaced Iraqis can return to their homes soon.

Earlier today, Iraqi military forces backed by coalition air strikes defeated Islamic State to seize control of Shirqat, a strategic victory towards retaking Mosul. Fighting is still continuing this afternoon. Three soldiers have been killed.

Tens of thousands of civilians were thought to be trapped in the area, which has been under Islamic State control since the group seized a third of Iraqi territory in 2014. But the operation has not generated the large-scale displacement seen in other recent campaigns.

It is believed the campaign to retake Mosul could begin next month.

Weeping children with their mother, who fled with them from Islamic State strongholds of Hawija and Shirqat to seek refuge in a refugee centre in Makhmour, south of Mosul, Iraq.Reuters

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, which is providing emergency food to thousands of displaced people, also reported  on the growing hopes for a Christian province to be set up based in a liberated Mosul.