Cathedral ISIS destroyed in Iraq’s largest Christian town to be rebuilt in 2020

“It is a very significant church because it was built from the donations of local people, agricultural workers.”
author_image Kurdistan 24

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – One of the largest cathedrals in Iraq is set to be rebuilt in 2020 after it was damaged in the war against the so-called Islamic State.

The Great Al-Tahira Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Qaraqosh (Bakhdida), located southeast of Mosul, was destroyed after members of the Islamic State set it on fire when the terror group controlled the region in 2014.

Five years later, the cathedral is set to be rebuilt with help from the non-profit group, Aid to the Church in Need, according to Georges Jahola, a parish priest from Bakhdida.

“It is a very significant church because it was built from the donations of local people, agricultural workers,” Jahola told the Catholic News Agency. A cathedral is the principal church of a diocese, or Catholic district, with which the bishop is officially associated.

Georges Jahola at the Al-Tahira church in Bakhdida in November 2016, shortly after the town's liberation. (Photo: CNA/Georges Jahola)
Georges Jahola at the Al-Tahira church in Bakhdida in November 2016, shortly after the town's liberation. (Photo: CNA/Georges Jahola)

When the Islamic State emerged in Iraq in 2014, tens of thousands of Christians were forced to flee their homes, with many seeking refuge in the autonomous Kurdistan Region.

The Islamic State killed Christian civilians, forced some to convert to their deluded interpretation of Islam, and destroyed or desecrated churches in cities like Mosul, which it controlled for years.

Even with reconstruction efforts underway in some areas that used to have large Christian populations in Nineveh province, very few Christian residents have returned to their villages and cities because of the continued presence of Islamic State sympathizers, ongoing security incidents, the presence of sectarian militias, and a lack of basic infrastructure and services.  

“In 1980, 1.8 million Christians lived in Iraq; however, unconfirmed data in 2014 showed that only 400,000 Christians remain in Iraq,” Joseph Slewa, a former lawmaker in the Christian bloc of Baghdad's parliament, said in August.

Read More: Former lawmaker says number of Christians leaving Iraq rising

Whatever their exact number, the armed conflict, mass displacement, and campaigns of ethnic cleansing that have been endemic for decades have left the Christian community in Iraq more decimated and vulnerable than at any time in modern history. 

Editing by John J. Catherine