Iraqi officials raised the national flag over the eastern part of Mosul: As some residents of the city of Mosul celebrate their new freedom from the Islamic State group, an Iraqi Christian leader who visited the war-torn city said Christian residents are unlikely to return. "I don't see a future for Christians in Mosul," said Father Emanuel Youkhana, a priest, or archimandrite, of the Assyrian Church of the East.
Iraqi Christians cautiously welcome the start of the battle for Mosul and the Ninevah Plain, from which they were driven out by ISIS more than two years ago.
The fate of some 120,000 displaced Iraqi Christians is being held hostage by uncertainty.
Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul, Iraq, called on the world's government to oust Islamic State militants from northern parts of the country so thousands of displaced Christians can return home.
Speaking with the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need on the first anniversary of the Islamic State's takeover of Mosul, Archbishop Moshe said that forcing out Islamic State forces was the "best solution" for the 120,000 displaced Christians who fled the city June 10, 2014, and nearby towns and villages that were seized in early August.
The story of the Middle East for 2014 is one of war and displacement, broken families and tireless aid workers and the rise of a new terrorist group.
Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad implored moderate Muslims to reject "terrorism in the name of religion" and step up to challenge the actions of Islamic State militants against minority communities in Iraq.
During an international conference of Muslim and Christian leaders, Sako called the situation in Iraq an "unprecedented historic crisis" and called on Muslims in attendance to exercise their responsibility to protect Christian, Yezidi and other minority communities.
Aid to the Church in Need distributed the letter Sako read to the conference.
In Iraqi cities under the control of Islamic extremists, everyone walks in fear amid a new reign of terror.
"Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are chased away," Pope Francis said, assuring Christians in all of Iraq and the Middle East of his "constant prayers."