I contributed additional reporting to this AP article, including its conclusion below:
At Qaraqosh, Francis urged its residents to continue to dream, and forgive.
“Forgiveness is necessary to remain in love, to remain Christian,” he said.
One resident, Doha Sabah Abdallah, told him how her son and two other young people were killed in a mortar strike August 6, 2014, as ISIS neared the town. “The martyrdom of these three angels” alerted the other residents to flee, she said. “The deaths of three saved the entire city.”
She said now it was for the survivors to “try to forgive the aggressor.”
Francis wrapped up the day—and his visit—with a Mass at the stadium in Irbil, in the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region. An estimated 10,000 people erupted in ululating cheers when he arrived and did a lap around the track in his open-sided popemobile, the first and only time he has used it on this trip due to security concerns.
On the makeshift altar for the Mass was a statue of the Virgin Mary from the Mar Adday Church in the town of Keramlis, which was restored after ISIS militants chopped off its head and hands.
“Religion is love, grace, forgiveness,” said Louis Sako, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, in advance of the visit. “Religion is a message, and humanity is its core.
“[And] as for us, we are staying until the end.”
But perhaps some Iraq Christians have a vision for even more.
“This is a time of healing for our country,” Farouk Hammo, pastor of Baghdad Presbyterian Church, told CT.
“But we are still praying for a visitation by the Lord Jesus—a revival—and it will happen.”
This article was originally published at Christianity Today on March 11, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.