Church bells signal liberation for people in Northern Iraq

The bells of Christian churches in Northern Iraq have begun to ring out for the first time in over two years as government forces liberate villages and towns around besieged Mosul.

As a means of simultaneously signalling freedom regained and of the endurance of Christian communities, bells began to ring out last weekend as militants of so-called Islamic State (ISIS) abandoned their positions or died fighting.


Among the places of worship re-seized by government forces was Mart Shmoni Syriac Orthodox Church in the Christian village of Bartella, which had been home to a vibrant community until ISIS emerged in the middle of 2014. The village is just 10 miles from Mosul.

Soldiers entering the church reportedly found derogatory anti-Christian graffiti spread about the building, but otherwise the church had been left relatively unscathed.

While media focused over last weekend on displaced Iraqis preparing for a return to their liberated homes, this will not happen immediately as soldiers continue the slow search for a multitude of booby traps left by retreating militants.

In the town of Qaraqosh, liberated last weekend though the combined efforts of government forces and at least one Christian militia group, work is already underway to bring local officials back to begin the process of rebuilding normal life, even as troops press on to what will be a harder fight for Mosul itself.