'Jihadists Used Our Church As A Shooting Range': Iraqi Christians Return Home To Devastation


Iraqi Christians' homes on the Nineveh Plain were largely destroyed under ISIS ruleJaco Klamer/Aid to the Church in Need

Iraqi Christians are determined to return to their homelands despite devastation wreaked by ISIS.

Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town on Iraq's Ninevah Plain, was largely destroyed under the jihadist occupation. Now back under Iraqi control, local Christian are insisting on better security as they prepare to go home.

Father Sharbil Eeso, a 72-year-old Catholic priest, has returned to Qaraqosh more than two years after he fled.

"Despite all the damage, I have hope for the future. If our security is guaranteed, Christians can continue to live in Iraq," he said.

In an appeal for help from fellow Christians outside of the Middle East, he said: "I want to return to Qaraqosh when there is electricity and water again, although I think that safety is the main condition for returning."

Churches were used as target ranges and statues beheaded and destrotedJaco Klamer/Aid to the Church in Need

Speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, local salon owner Manal Matti, described how the militants set fire to the nearby Church of the Immaculate Conception and beheaded its statues.

"The jihadists used the church as a shooting range and the mannequins as targets. The mannequins are completely riddled [with bullets]."

ACN reports show that Qaraqosh's St George's Syriac Catholic Church was used by ISIS as an improvised bomb factory and contained hundreds of bombs and grenades.

The extremists also wrote battle plans on church walls and chemicals were found in the building together with instructions on how to mix them into explosives.

Aid to the Church in Need said one church was used as an ammunition store by the militants.Jaco Klamer/Aid to the Church in Need