Iraqi Muslims restoring Chaldean church in Nineveh to invite Christians to return

A number of young Muslims in Iraq have joined efforts to restore the second largest church in the Middle East as part of their bid to call Christians to return to their homes in the Nineveh province after the Islamic State was driven out.

(REUTERS / Marko Djurica)A priest leads the Easter Mass in Mar Gewargis (St George) Chaldean Catholic church, which was damaged by Islamic State militants, in the town of Tel Esqof, Iraq, April 16, 2017.

On Nov. 9, local activist Musallam Fadel al-Hayali said scores of Iraqi Muslims from Mosul volunteered to help restore the Chaldean Catholic Church in Talkif, northern Iraq. He said that among the things needed to be done was to clear out the rubble, remove the evidence of war, and rebuild the church bell, Al Bawaba relayed.

"Dozens of young Muslim volunteers from the city of Mosul took part in the restoration of the Chaldean Catholic Church in the center of the Talkif district, the country's -- and region's -- second biggest church," said al-Hayali.

He later on added: "This [church restoration] is an invitation to our Christian neighbors who fled the city earlier to return to their homes and practice their faith in peace and security."

Christians fled the district of Talkif along with tens of thousands of locals when ISIS overran the area in 2014. The terror group was finally driven out of the region in August after nine months of military offensives."

Meanwhile, the Migration and Displacement Ministry's senior official Ali Abbas Jahakir said last month that 15,277 refugees have been able to return to their hometowns in the Nineveh Plains in two days. Some of these people were from eastern and western Mosul, Iraqi News reported.

In addition, Jahakir said many of the returnees were from places where basic services have been restored. Rights groups have previously said the refugees were reluctant to make their way home because of the poor living conditions in their hometowns and the severe damage to buildings and oher infrastructures.

Iraq has established plans to bring all refugees home before the end of 2017. It will also launch a campaign to reclaim the remaining ISIS-held territories in western Anbar.