In defiance of Islamic State (IS) and other extremists, 300 displaced Iraqi Christians returned to their hometown of Bartella in northern Iraq to celebrate mass on Christmas Eve, the Daily Caller website reports today (December 25, 2016).
Bartella has been shelled and burned during fights between Iraqi government forces and IS, but that didn't stop the Christians from proclaiming that "Christ is the light of the world."
Assyrian priest Yacoub Saady said at the end of the mass, "We, the Christians are the oldest component of this country. We are staying put and no power can force us to leave."
After the Iraqi military retook Bartella, volunteers came in droves to clean up the Assyrian Orthodox Church of Mart Shmoni. Wiring still hangs from the church's ceiling and icons remain missing.