The Great Al-Tahira Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Bakhdida remains charred black inside, five years after the Islamic State plundered and set it aflame; however, in 2020 the Syriac Catholic cathedral will be restored as Iraq’s largest Christian community fights to rebuild and regain what was lost.

“It is a very significant church because it was built from the donations of local people, agriculture workers,” Father Georges Jahola, a parish priest from Bakhdida, told CNA.

Bakhdida, also known as Qaraqosh, is located 20 miles southeast of Mosul. Father Jahola said that the local Christians hope that in the future their town will be referred to as as Bakhdida, the Aramaic and more historic name of their town, rather than Qaraqosh, a Turkish name that came from the Ottoman Empire.

The cathedral in Iraq’s Nineveh Plains was constructed from 1932-1948 as Catholic farmers donated each year from their harvest, the priest explained. The Great Al-Tahira served a growing Christian community, until the Islamic State turned the cathedral into an indoor shooting range from 2014-2016.

After Bakhdida’s liberation from the Islamic State in 2016, Masses resumed in the damaged cathedral as Christians returned to rebuild their community. Aid to the Church in Need committed to completely restore the cathedral’s fire-damaged interior in late 2019.

Christianity has been present in the Nineveh plain in Iraq – between Mosul and Iraqi Kurdistan – since the first century.

Rebuilding the 6,936 damaged homes in Bakhdida began in earnest in May 2017, and since then more than half have been completed, Father Jahola said.

The latest rebuilding statistics for Bakhdida divide the rebuilt homes into three categories: completed destroyed, partially destroyed, and partially damaged.

Of the 2,100 homes that were burnt and partially destroyed in Bakhdida, 818 homes have been rebuilt and 1,282 remain in need of repair. Thirty-two of the homes that were completely destroyed have been totally rebuilt, while 30 such houses remain. A little over half of the 4,774 homes that were partially damaged by the Islamic State in the city have been repaired.

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