Iraq: Mosul church finds its bell, seven years after IS

Under the youyous of the faithful, the bell of the Mar Touma church rings on Saturday in old Mosul: it is the first inaugurated in the great metropolis of northern Iraq, seven years after the arrival of the jihadists of the Islamic State group (EI).

In front of a few dozen people, often Christians who made the trip from neighboring localities, Father Pios Affas rang the bell in his Syriac Catholic church, still under construction, noted an AFP correspondent.

Installed thanks to donations from the French NGO, Fraternité en Irak, helping religious minorities, the 285 kilogram bell was melted down in Lebanon, transported from Beirut by plane, then by truck to Mosul.

When the first blows ring out, the audience applauds, the women utter ululations and prayers are sung in the heart.

“After seven years of silence, the bell of Mar Touma rang for the first time on the right bank of Mosul”, welcomed Father Pios Affas in a speech.

ISIS jihadists made Mosul their “capital” in Iraq in the summer of 2014, before being driven out by the Iraqi army and an international coalition in 2017.

“It is a great day of joy, and I hope that the joy will increase even more when not only all the churches and mosques in Mosul are rebuilt, but also the whole city, with its houses and historical sites,” said Father Pios Affas told AFP.

The return of this bell “opens the way, God willing, for Christians to return to their city,” he added.

The 19th century Mar Touma church was used by jihadists, who allegedly made it into a prison or a court. Restoration work is continuing and its marble floor has been dismantled to be completely redone.

Originally from Mosul, Nidaa Abdel Ahad came especially from Erbil where she has lived for several years to see “her church being rebuilt and come back to life”.

“My joy is indescribable”, testifies this forty-something teacher. “It is as if the heart of Christianity is beating again.”

Strong of more than 1.5 million people in 2003 before the American invasion, the Christian community of Iraq has shrunk to some 400,000 souls, many having fled the violence that has bloodied the country.

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