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Christians in Iraq and Syria celebrate Easter and pray for better days

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By Euronews
Christians in Iraq and Syria celebrate Easter and pray for better days

<p>Easter has been celebrated by Christians in the Kurdish city of Irbil in Iraq.</p> <p>Many of those who came to the St Joseph Cathedral were internal refugees, displaced by fighting.</p> <p>They had fled Mosul and surrounding areas last year when the region was taken over by the extremists from the Islamic State group.</p> <p>Since then they have been living in camps just outside Irbil’s Christian area of Ankawa.</p> <p>After the service, one 63-year-old man internally displaced from the Christian village of Qaraqosh, said he was hopeful a change would come soon and that he would be able to return home.</p> <p>Amid ongoing fighting all over Syria, Christians also celebrated Easter in Damascus. </p> <p>The country’s Catholic Patriarch, Gregorios <span class="caps">III</span> Lahham, called for war to end and peace to be installed in the region. </p> <p>“To the world I say: enough wars, enough killing and enough blood in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia and everywhere. Instead of weapons let us unite on one word. Let us be all in the flow of life and resurrection,” Lahham said after Easter celebrations that took place in Zaitoun Church, in old Damascus, where Catholic Syrian Christians participated in the dawn mass.</p> <p>Christians form ten percent of the Syrian population. </p> <p>In both countries <span class="caps">ISIL</span> militants have murdered, abducted and enslaved Christians, tried to force others to convert to Islam, and destroyed churches and artefacts. In some areas <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/03/christian-militia-syria-defends-ancient-settlements-isis">Christian militia have tried to defend ancient settlements</a> from the onslaught. </p> <p>A group of 21 Egyptian Christians were beheaded by <span class="caps">ISIL</span>, but there was surprise as <a href="http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/03/02/isis-releases-19-assyrian-christian-hostages/">another group of Assyrian Christians were released</a> in northeastern Syria last month.</p>