At a church in the northern Iraqi town of Bartella, young, Iraqi Christians prepare for their First Communion.
Their teacher is speaking Aramaic, the same, ancient Semitic language believed to have been spoken by Jesus. Bartella is one of the world’s oldest Christian communities — but Christians here are now a minority.
All the children in this class, and their families, fled when ISIS took the town in 2014. Many of their families sought refuge in the Kurdish areas of Iraq. Now, they are back, but more than half the Christians from Bartella never returned.
Today, the historically Christian town of about 15,000 people is also home to a number of Iraq’s religious minorities, including a large number of Shabaks, a long-persecuted religious minority that has settled here over the last few decades.
The shift has left Christians feeling pushed out. But many Shabaks say they just want to live together with the different groups in the town.
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