Iraqi church bell rings for first time since ISIS occupation

Iraqi church bell rings for first time since ISIS occupation

A church in Mosul, Iraq has tolled its bell for the first time since ISIS overtook the country back in 2014.

The 285-kilogram bell was sounded at the historic Syriac Christian church of Mar Tuma following a French-led restoration project. The church had been destroyed by an ISIS bombing during the militant group's brutal occupation of the city. 

The bell was restored in Beirut before being flown to the formerly besieged city and reinstalled in the 19th-century church.

A large group of Christians gathered at the church to witness its reopening and the inaugural ringing.

"After seven years of silence, the bell of Mar Tuma rang for the first time on the right bank of Mosul," church leader Father Pios Affas told AFP.

"This is a great day of joy, and I hope the joy will grow even more when not only all the churches and mosques in Mosul are rebuilt, but also the whole city, with its houses and historical sites."

One of the Christians in attendance, Nidaa Abdel Ahad, said that the church had been "brought back to life".

"My joy is indescribable," Ahad said. "It's as if the heart of Christianity is beating again

Fraternity in Iraq, the NGO leading the restoration project, thanked those involved for clearing away the rubble after the church was destroyed.

“We would like to thank the dedication of the mukhtar [local elder] and the people of the Muslim village of Khidr because they are the ones who cleared the 600 cubic metres of rubble resulting from the blast," they said. 

Iraq's Christian population dropped from 1.5 million in 2003 before the US-led invasion, to about 400,000 following the ISIS occupation. 

Faraj-Benoit Camurat, founder and head of Fraternity in Iraq, said that approximately 50 Christian families had resettled in Mosul, while many others travel to the city for work.

"We hope this bell will be the symbol of a kind of rebirth in Mosul," he said.