ASHTY REFUGEE CAMP, Northern Iraq — “On this Palm Sunday, we thank God for liberating our villages from the Islamic State,” Father Youssef says in Arabic, addressing a small congregation in the Ashty Camp in Northern Iraq. Many of those gathered are Christians from the villages surrounding Mosul who have lived in the camp since the Islamic State (ISIS) captured their villages and drove them out two and a half years ago.
Now, their villages are finally liberated. For the first time in almost three years it is possible to return.
“We hope that this Holy Week, we will rise again,” Father Youssef continues. “We pray that peace comes, once again, to our lands.”
To mark this particularly special Palm Sunday — the first since ISIS was defeated in the area — many assembled today will march 80 miles, from the camp to the village of Qarqosh, one of the largest traditionally Christian villages in Iraq. Some are originally from there, while others are marching in solidarity.
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