Around 300 Christians were able to celebrate Easter in their village, Bartella, about 12km from Mosul, for the first time in three years on Saturday 15 April.
Although Bartella has been liberated from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, noone has returned to live there yet - much of the village has been destroyed. This includes the church; parts are burned, crosses and statues are smashed, and there is a big gaping hole in one of the walls where a big cross was once part of the construction.
But about 300 people returned to celebrate Easter, organised by Father Yacoub. While the bells in the clock tower ring, Father Yacoub said: "This means a lot to me, after all these years we now are celebrating Easter here. That is very hopeful."
He spoke about the resurrection of Jesus and the hope it gives: "Jesus can come into our hearts and that will comfort us, but coming to their homes is not possible for the people, so that is difficult for many. Of course, the message during the celebration this morning will be about hope, also for people to return."
Iraq is number 7 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List. Open Doors has been working with local partners and churches in Iraq for over 20 years to support the church through training, crisis relief, community development projects, and distributing Bibles and Christian literature. Open Doors local partners have provided vital aid for tens of thousands of displaced families, and are working to provide long-term support to displaced Christians as they begin to rebuild their lives, including helping families who wish to return to the Nineveh plain to rebuild their homes, and starting small businesses to give people the dignity of supporting their own families.
Open Doors has launched the Hope for the Middle East campaign - see: www.opendoorsuk.org/campaign/hope-for-the-middle-east.php - a global, seven-year campaign mobilising Christians around the world to stand with the church in the Middle East. As part of this, Open Doors is asking people to sign the One Million Voices of Hope petition, see: http://advocacy.oduk.org/ea-action/action which will be presented to the UN in December 2017. The petition calls for equality, dignity and responsibility for Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq, the key things Christians and church leaders from these nations have said they want for the future.