"We will not have a light Christmas. Despite what we have suffered, we will have a real Christmas of understanding of the birth of Jesus on a cold night at a difficult time. Because that, too, is our situation."
"Those who make such decisions [Canada voting down a motion agreeing that Islamist threats to Christians represents a form of genocide] have lost nothing. They sit in their nice homes and make such decisions."
"Our people live in tents and suffer in the cold. Look at what ISIL did. This whole area is a crime scene. They captured women and tortured and raped them. They murdered us. They wrecked our churches."
Sister Diana, Syriac Catholic Church, Bartella, Iraq
"They tried to kill all of us and our traditional practices."
"Even the graves of our saints were destroyed. Nothing was sacred to them."
Matuos, Nineveh Protection Unit, Khidr Elias, Iraq
Towns and villages situated close to Mosul that once were the homes of the majority Christian presence from antiquity forward, were largely vacated by the ancient Christian sect of Iraq under threat of conversion-or-die by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, when it entered Mosul and declared it part of the ISIL caliphate. The homes were plundered, the church interiors were looted and destroyed. Christian lives became forfeit to Islamist jihad in a land where Christians were established then imperilled, since the 7th Century.
In the 14th Century, Tamerlane according to history, had 150,000 Christians beheaded in Baghdad and Tikrit [centuries later the home town of Saddam Hussein]. Up to 12 percent of Iraq's population as late as 1947 was Christian with the pre-2003 Christian population as high as five percent of the population; roughly 1.5-million people. At the present time, the population has fallen to two percent. As many as 243 churches were destroyed by ISIL, Roads and buildings in Bartella and Khidr Elias along with other towns were left with booby-trapped explosives.
On the eastern outskirts of Mosul conflict is ongoing between the Iraqi military and their allies, in conflict with and opposing ISIL's presence. Mosul and its Nineveh region was once regarded as the cradle of Christianity. For the third consecutive winter, the venerable Christian enclave lacked worshippers at Christmas mass, absenting the Christian presence where Christianity arose and worshipped for the past two thousand years.
ISIL used a Syriac Catholic Church in the town of Khidr Elias as its regional headquarters. The church interior was scribbled with jihad-glorifying jihad. The Christian militiamen now occupying the church grounds expunged the words praising ISIL, and Qur'an quotations with their own sentiments, mocking the propaganda ISIL espouses, including that ISIL was prepared for eternal rule.
In Bartella, the church of St.George has survived relatively intact though its interior was trashed. Still, a battered statue of the Virgin Mary was resurrected and at the church nave a large cross recovered from the wreckage was erected back in place. Over 100,000 Christians who evaded death at ISIS's onslaught left Mosul for haven in Baghdad, Turkey or Ankawa, a suburb of Kurdish Erbil. Whether they will ever feel safe enough to return to their ancestral homes is another matter.