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Exiled Iraqi Christian family returns to home vandalised with IS slogans

by Tola Mbakwe

In 2014, Louy and his wife, Huda, left the town Bartella with their son, Sharbel, and respective parents, leaving behind their home and most of their possessions.

At first, they stayed in a tent at a church compound in Erbil. They later rented somewhere to live.

Louy said: "In the beginning we expected to stay for only two or three days, but the days became weeks and, we knew that it would be much longer. But we always believed that one day we would return."

When they did, they said their house was almost unrecognisable. IS painted their slogans on the walls and raided the house. The doors were stolen and windows were broken.

Christian charity Open Doors said the family wept as the sight of the house but Louy said there was a silver lining.

"They didn't burn the house down and it wasn't bombed," he said.

Louy's house is one of the 1,274 houses in the Nineveh Plain that Open Doors' local partners have been able to fully restore.  Around 300 of these are in Bartella.

The town is recovering from the trauma it experienced after being overrun by IS.

Thousands of Christians have been able to come home, but there are still security issues and the need for redevelopment.

"It would be terrible to see the region without Christians. Iraq without Christians? That would be impossible. That means that you won't feel love anymore," Louy said.

Iraq is number 13 on the Open Doors World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

The charity said Islamic extremism is still a problem in Iraq. Although IS has lost territory in Iraq, their ideology remains. Many of the militants have simply blended back into the general population.

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