There were gasps, followed by tears at a small church in northern Iraq as a group of Christians returned to their parish Sunday to find that everything had been destroyed, including the statue of the Virgin Mary which Islamic State militants had decapitated before they left.
A confession booth turned into a closet, a desecrated tomb, red prayer benches burnt. As Father Thabet Habib recited prayers at the Saint Addai church, the sound of broken glass crunched underneath worshippers’ feet.
Keramlis, a Christian town on the Nineveh plains in northern Iraq, fell to the Islamic State in August 2014, two months after the extremist group took Iraq’s second city of Mosul and surrounding areas, sending most of its inhabitants fleeing.
The town was liberated around three weeks ago as part of the push for Mosul, but most of its homes have been destroyed in the process.