Scores of young Iraqi Muslims have taken part in the restoration of the Middle East’s second largest church, urging their displaced Christian neighbors to return to their homes.
“Dozens of young Muslim volunteers from the city of Mosul took part in the restoration of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the center of the Talkif district, the country’s — and region’s — second biggest church,” Musallam Fadel al-Hayali, a local activist, said on Thursday.
Located in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, the Talkif district stands roughly 18 kilometers north of Mosul.
According to al-Hayali, restoration work on the church, which was first built in 1912, included the removal of rubble, the erasure of the effects of past fires and reconstruction of the church bell.
“This [church restoration] is an invitation to our Christian neighbors who fled the city earlier to return to their homes and practice their faith in peace and security,” al-Hayali said.
In mid-2014, ISIS overran Nineveh’s Talkif district, forcing tens of thousands of local residents — mostly Christians — to flee the area.
In August of this year, however, the terrorist group was finally expelled from the district — and from the nearby city of Mosul — following a nine-month army campaign.