Shafaq News / A unique model of religious and human coexistence emerged at the heart of a village in Nineveh Plains (northern Iraq), an area that has been the focus of sectarian and religious conflicts over the years.
Christians have been forced to flee Nesiri village (located in Al-Qosh district, north of Mosul), leaving behind a sacred religious landmark represented in a deeply rooted in history church that dates back to the 18th century.
However, the Church was not left to the dust, as its candles were still lit every single Sunday. The Yazidis, who inhabited this village, rebuilt the church and reopened its doors to pilgrims. In their eyes, this church is a house of God and an extension of a divine religion. Because of them, this monument stands today as a symbol of religious coexistence.
Nermo Kheyo, the mayor of Nesiri village, tells the story of this village to Shafaq News agency, "Christians immigrated from this village. However, we clean the church and light the candles every sunday. Even the Yazidis visit this church to seek blessings".
"This is the Church of Mar Odisho. When we first came to this village in 1956, this church was already here; as it was built in 1880”, said Nawzad Hassan, a Yazidi civil activist, told Shafaq News agency.
Nawzad added, "Before ISIS invaded Nineveh in 2014, Christian families used to visit this church. However, after the invasion and liberation of the area in 2016, Christians stopped coming", And noted that, "Yazidis used to participate with Christian pilgrims in the church's rituals when the latter visited the village to celebrate Christian religious events”.
Once upon a time, the echoes of common prayers in the Church of Mar Odisho in Nesiri village rose under one roof, without regard to religious differences; a noble scene of coexistence in an area ravaged by sectarian and religious wars over the years.
After Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled in 2003, Christians and their churches were targets of recurrent attacks by radical Islamists.
According to the Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Matti Warda, "Iraqi Christians are on the brink of extinction after 1,400 years of persecution".
The archbishop said in a statement in London in 2019, "Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the number of Christians has declined by 83%, from about 1.5 million to only 250,000; the Iraqi Church is one of the oldest - if not the oldest - and is approaching rapid extinction. The remaining must be ready to face martyrdom”.
Warda referred to the current threat of ISIS as "The last struggle for survival" after ISIS attacked in 2014 and forcibly displaced more than 125,000 Christians from the lands of their ancestors.
After the exodus of Assyrian, Armenian and Chaldean Christians from Nineveh Plains in 2014, Kurdistan became the last safe shelter. However, the threat of another Christian exodus is looming, especially with the renewed conflicts between the Turkish army and PKK in these areas.