Now that their city has been liberated from Islamic State (IS) fighters, Christian families have begun cleaning up Qaraqosh in a bid to reclaim their lives in northern Iraq.

One of the first jobs is removing IS graffiti, reports Al Jazeera English.

“The writing on the wall is just superficial. It can be erased easily. It’s just paint,” says Ikhlas Matteh as she white-washes a metal shutter. Abu George, who returned to find his house was just a burned-out shell, says: “We have to stay where our roots are. We don’t want to leave. Our lands and homes are here. This is our country, where we are not hated.”

Thousands were forced to leave Qaraqosh – Iraq’s largest Christian city – when IS invaded in 2014, but concern has been voiced about removing evidence of the IS occupation. After her visit last month to the Nineveh Plains, Dr. Sarah Ahmed of the UK-based Foundation for Reconciliation and Relief in the Middle East said graffiti shouldn’t be removed “until the world knows what has happened to all these places”.

Iraq is seventh on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians are most under pressure for their faith.