Dr. John and Dee ministered in Iraq last month. This is part one of two articles about John’s visit into two cities very recently liberated from ISIS; Qarqosh and Karamles.
Walking through the village city of Qaraqosh wasn’t easy. The streets are littered with rubble from explosions and looted possessions that were dragged out into the streets. Random vehicles dot the roads, stripped of parts and burned. I saw a lorry truck that had been hit by an air strike of some kind, reducing it to pieces of shredded metal.
My purpose in visiting Qaraqosh and Karamles was to join the pastor and show support to several refugee families as they visited what is left of their homes in areas very recently liberated from ISIS. It was somewhat odd to see workers already back at work cleaning up the city. They were sweeping and bulldozing the streets of obstacles so residents could enter their neighborhoods for the first time since ISIS drove them out of Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian city, in August, 2014.
We walked into our friends’ houses, quietly stepping through what was left of their possessions mixed with mattresses and clothing left by ISIS in their hurry to exit.
We also walked through four churches that had been greatly damaged by fire and explosions…the furniture was thrown into piles, pews that at one time held Christian worshippers. These were some of the most beautiful churches I have seen in my life, with marble floors supporting pillars that rise 100 feet above. Canopied altars and domes tower 200 feet above. I could only imagine what they once looked like 28 months ago.
A somber feeling came over me as I walked over thousands of bullet casings and shattered stained glass window shards. I was struck with the sense of violent desecration of what I consider sacred and spiritually meaningful. The cross had been struck with hundreds of bullets as ISIS fighters came in to destroy any symbol of the Christian faith. Bibles written in Aramaic had been cut, shredded and burned, yet a few pages remained that had been taken from the floor and lovingly placed on the broken pulpit for a congregation in exile.
As we stood in the sanctuary, my ears echoed with explosions from mortars and other artillery mixed with the chatter of machine gun fire from the exchange between the Iraqi Army and ISIS in Mosul just six kilometers away. The steeple was toppled and lay at an upside-down 45-degree angle. Look for Part Two in January’s edition.