Now that many areas in the Nineveh Plains are free of ISIS, Christians have begun moving back home. They are finding many of their churches in ruins, the remaining walls covered in words engraved by ISIS condemning Christians, and no money to rebuild. Christians are calling on the government to fund the rebuilding to turn historic sites, like the Mar Behnam monastery, into “places of worship and religious tourism centers.” Such support is unlikely, though. Volunteers have begun cleaning up churches including sweeping out debris and repainting.
2017-05-22 Iraq (Al Monitor) – A new era has started in the northern Ninevah Plains, known for its ethnic and religious diversity, following the expulsion of the Islamic State (IS). IS took over the area in June 2014 and forced the Christians living there — estimated at more than 100,000 — to abandon their farms and towns and head to the neighboring Kurdistan Region and other areas in the country, or to leave Iraq altogether.
On May 16, the heads of the Christian churches told the media of their “concerns over the possible return of terrorism” and demanded that “the areas of the Ninevah Plains be protected by the United Nations and enjoy autonomy.” This fear, however, has not prevented many Christians from returning to their farms and cities and practicing religious rites in their monasteries and churches. During the Easter mass April 15 at the Mar Mattai Syriac Orthodox Monastery in Ninevah, Christians prayed for the safe return of the displaced to their homes and the spread of peace.
IS reduced several monasteries and churches to ruins, and Christians in the Ninevah Plains are demanding that plans be made for their reconstruction, especially for the monastery of Mar Behnam. It dates to the fourth century; IS occupied it in 2014 and bombed it in 2015. They are also calling for the reconstruction of the Mar Mattai Monastery, founded more than 1,600 years ago.