Returning Home for the First Time in over Two Years, Iraqi Christians Celebrate Christmas Mass with US Soldiers in Newly-Liberated Bartella

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Photo, above: Iraqi Christians attend Christmas Eve Mass with US soldiers in the Assyrian Orthodox church of Mart Shmoni, in Bartella, Iraq, Saturday, December 24, 2016. CENGIZ YAR, A

In Bartella, Iraq, hundreds of Iraqi Christians attended Mass on Christmas Eve, joined by a dozen American soldiers and 100 Iraqi soldiers.

Bartella, a predominantly Christian town of 25,000, was overtaken by ISIS in 2014. Bartella’s Christian citizens fled to safer locales, many returning on Christmas Eve for the first time to see the wasteland their once beautiful town has become.

This is a very special Christmas season, the civilized world breathing a sigh of relief at the change of leadership in Washington.

Barack Hussein pulling US troops out of Iraq was largely responsible for the rise of ISIS and the death, destruction, and misery across the Middle East, such as that in Bartella, only one example.

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CBS — For the 300 Christians who braved rain and wind to attend Christmas’s Eve Mass in their hometown, the ceremony evoked both holiday cheer and grim reminders of the war raging around their northern Iraqi town, and the distant prospect of moving back home.

Displaced when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized their town, Bartella, in August 2014, the Christians were bused into town from Irbil, capital of the self-ruled Kurdish region where they have lived for more than two years, to attend the lunchtime service in the Assyrian Orthodox church of Mart Shmoni.

Torched by ISIS militants, church-supervised volunteers recently cleaned it up after government forces retook Bartella as part of an ongoing campaign to liberate the nearby city of Mosul and surrounding areas in Nineveh province. But the church is still missing its icons, electrical wiring hangs perilously from its ceiling and most light fixtures are gone. The headless statue of a late patriarch stands in the front yard, its pedestal surrounded by shards of glass.

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