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A northern Iraqi Easter

Fears for the future remain within Iraq's devastated Christian community, but there were glimmers of hope this Easter.

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In the small church of St. Addaie the Messenger, the crucifixion and resurrection, retold in the village for the past 2,000 years, was re-enacted in elaborate Easter celebrations by a community holding fast to its ancient traditions but uneasy about its future.

The village is fewer than 20 miles from Mosul, one of Iraq’s most violent cities, but inside the green line that separates the Kurdish-controlled north from central-government controlled Iraq.

Hundreds of its 1,500 residents were driven from Mosul by the killings and kidnappings of Christians that have recently begun to wane. Rising political tensions
between the Kurdish government and Baghdad over oil and land have raised fears about the fate of towns and villages claimed by both governments.

“Our problem now is that this area neither belongs to the Iraqi government nor to the government of Kurdistan – it is somewhere in between,” says Monsignor Yousif Shamon Qahwachi, who has served the village’s Chaldean Catholic community for four decades. “We don’t know where we will end up.”

Reflecting better security, Easter commemorations seemingly involving the entire village, were the most elaborate in years. A giant painted Easter egg marked a main road into town. Across from the church, cut-outs of Roman soldiers and a canvas rock guarded a mock cave where a representation of Jesus' body lay. On Saturday afternoon, as parishioners recited prayers at St. Addaie, a white-robed procession led by a young priest walked through the narrow winding streets to bring back the communion chalice to mark Christ’s resurrection.

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