At the evening service, the priest counseled forgiveness to a congregation with little reason to forgive. They were Christians from Mosul, brutalized by the Islamic State and betrayed, in some cases, by neighbors, and nothing — not the priest’s pleas, not his invocation of Cain and Abel — seemed likely to heal those scars.
Khalid Ramzi, a congregant, seemed to choke on the sermon. “We can’t fall into the same hole twice. We don’t want our children to be raised in violence and fear,” he said, standing outside the church in Irbil. “Only in our dreams can we go back to Mosul.”
When the militants swept into the city two years ago, Christians were ordered to convert, pay a tax or die. As the Islamic State pushed beyond the city, onto the plains of Nineveh, its advance scattered the rich patchwork of religious and ethnic minorities — Yazidis and Assyrians, Kurds and Shabaks — that made the area a microcosm of diverse Iraq and a place unlike maybe any in the world.
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