MOSUL, Iraq – As government forces pry apart the Islamic State's three yearlong grip on Mosul, Muslims and Christians have united to rebuild a damaged monastery.

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Even as the fighting rages in Iraq, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need is restoring damaged houses and helping displaced Christians return to their villages on the outskirts of Mosul, the country’s second largest city.

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PHOENIX – Chaldean immigrant Maureen Antwan wants two things for her children – for them to keep the faith and do well in school.

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WASHINGTON – The next few months will determine whether Iraqi Christians can return to their homes in areas where Islamic State had been routed, according to Msgr. John E. Kozar, international president of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

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As civilian deaths mount in Mosul and as Pope Francis appeals to combatants to spare innocent lives in the “beloved Iraqi nation,” a small ray of hope has emerged not 85 km away in the city of Irbil.

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IRBIL, Iraq – The Chaldean Catholic patriarch is supporting a more than 80-mile peace march during Holy Week to urge an end to violence in his homeland and throughout the Middle East.

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MOSUL, Iraq – The desolation of a burned Iraqi church left Argentine-born missionary Father Luis Montes with the firm conviction that Satan is at the root of the attacks, and Christians must pray for the conversion of ISIS.

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VATICAN CITY – With the battle for major ISIS strongholds heating up in Iraq, Pope Francis has voiced his closeness to the country, praying for the safety of people on the ground, particularly civilians caught in the crosshairs of the fighting.

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WASHINGTON – Within hours of President Donald Trump's new executive order March 6 banning arrivals from six majority-Muslim nations, Catholic and other religious groups joined secular leaders in questioning the wisdom of such a move, with others vowing to oppose it outright.

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MOSUL, Iraq – After years of darkness, hope has returned to Telekuf-Tesqopa. Located 26 kilometres from Mosul, the village is rebuilding after being liberated from ISIS.

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WASHINGTON – Receiving a prestigious human rights prize, an Iraqi lawmaker who gained international attention for her oppressed Yazidi religious minority decried the Trump administration's “unfair” executive order on immigration.

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ROME, Italy – An Iraqi priest who was forced to flee his village when the Islamic State seized the area in 2014 said the hardship and persecution Christians in Iraq have experienced has taught them what it really means to fully live out their faith.

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Vian Dakhil captured the world’s attention two years ago when she made an impassioned plea to save the Yazidi religious minority from annihilation by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq.

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ERBIL, Iraq – “I don't understand how people can harm each other so much,” sighs security guard Louis Petrus. Petrus recently returned to his hometown for the first time: the Christian city of Qaraqosh, near Mosul, which he had to flee in August 2014, when Islamic State captured the largest Christian city on the Nineveh plain.

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WASHINGTON – As Christians in the Middle East look back on 2016, they wonder if there will be much to celebrate amid mounting challenges, particularly for those displaced by conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

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