2017-12-24 18:17:00

A Christmas service at a church in the Iraqi city of Mosul has taken place for the first time since militants from the so-called Islamic State (IS) were driven out of the region.

Under IS the public performance of any Christian rituals was dangerous and difficult.

Many Christians fled persecution, with IS forcing worshippers to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.

Iraqi forces defeated IS in Mosul in July.

During the service, armoured vehicles sat outside Saint Paul's church and, inside, white sheets covered up bombed-out window frames.

The patriarch of Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Raphael Sako, requested that followers pray for "peace and stability in Mosul, Iraq and the world".

Farqad Malko a Christian who returned to the city after the defeat of IS, said the service was "important to relaunch Christian life".

Saint Paul's is the only functioning church in Mosul, and is only open thanks to the efforts of volunteers, the AFP agency reports.

Before the advance of IS in 2014, church leaders estimated Mosul had a Christian community of 35,000.

YesIraq