On The Ground

Mosul's remaining Christians hope Pope's visit will encourage others to return

Father Olivier Poquillon, a French Dominican and head of Al Saa'a Church in the heart of Mosul's old city.
Father Olivier Poquillon, a French Dominican and head of Al Saa'a Church in the heart of Mosul's old city. © France 24 screen grab

As Pope Francis makes a historic visit to Iraq, FRANCE 24 met with Christians across the country, from Baghdad to Erbil via Mosul and Qaraqosh. The predominantly Sunni Muslim city of Mosul, which Francis will visit Sunday, has a strong Christian heritage that was destroyed in the war against the Islamic State group.

Advertising

Mosul is a majority Sunni Muslim city, but its rich Christian history can still be seen in some of the city's buildings.

During the city's occupation by the Islamic State group from 2014 to 2017, its churches were looted, desecrated and destroyed.

"The crosses have been removed. But ... the domes are still standing. We are lucky, that's what we said to ourselves, compared to other churches, we did well, because Daesh [Islamic State] used this place, which allowed us to find it quite damaged, but not destroyed," said Father Olivier Poquillon, a French Dominican and head of Al Saa'a Church in the heart of Mosul's old city.

Emblems of the Islamic State group still remain, a legacy which some are working to remove before the arrival of the Pope.

"Some of the Christians do not intend to return because they are afraid. There is cohabitation here, much like it was the before 2003," said Sabah Aziz Ibrahim, the guardian of Al Saa'a Church. He is one of several dozen Christians living in Mosul today, a far cry from the 45,000 who lived in the city before 2003.

Click on the video player above to watch the full FRANCE 24 report.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning