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ICC Note: After Iraqi forces have defeated ISIS in the key city of Fallujah, 85 thousand refugees have been created. Most who have been held in the city for the past two and a half years have no home to which they can return. Christian refugees in particular are choosing to flee the country entirely, leaving a gaping hole in the religious landscape of Iraq.

06/29/2016 Iraq (MNN): Iraqi forces declared victory in reclaiming the city of Fallujah from ISIS fighters on Sunday — a major victory after two and a half years of the city’s captivity.

Victory in Fallujah came after a two-week long offensive mounted by Iraq security forces. In a report from USA Today, British Army Maj. Gen. Douglas Chalmers says the fighting to get to the heart of the city was some of the fiercest he has ever seen.

ISIS control in Fallujah, Iraq has created 85 thousand refugees. Although the city has been taken back, Fallujah citizens can’t go home yet. Iraqi soldiers are still clearing out the city and checking for mines.

Fallujah lies around 40 miles away from Baghdad, the capital of Iraq and the second largest city in the Arab world. ISIS’ hold on Fallujah provided a critical access point to the capital. Now that Fallujah is once again under control of the Iraqi government, the capital is safer for it.

“There are a number of refugees we hear who at this point have no hope of returning. They don’t even want to return. They have a lot of bad memories from being expelled by ISIS and at this point they are not ready to return. So they are looking for other options as opposed to returning home.”

While it’s safer and even important for Christian refugees to find safety assimilating to other countries, Brobbel says the Church should not just pull out of the Middle East.

“There was a lot of talk of needing to get Christian refugees to the West and to safety. And yet, while I understand that, we have always seen that if the Christian community leaves the Middle East, then it’s an even more hopeless situation. So there needs to be a strong Christian presence that remains, and we see our role then is to come alongside and strengthen what remains.”

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