23 February 2017

Christians who worked in Mosul find hope in new stone factory

As the battle for Mosul continues, 50 people who could no longer work in Mosul after the self-proclaimed Islamic State took over have found employment and hope for the future in a stone factory, set up with the help of Open Doors.

The new stone factory is about 25 miles from Mosul. Many of the families in the surrounding villages have been skilled stone cutters for generations, and worked as stone cutters in Mosul. When they could no longer work there, they were unable to support their families.

Nashwan, one of the men now employed at the stone factory, said, "I had worked for 20 years in stone cutting, and suddenly I was unemployed. I had no means of caring for my wife and three children; they are depending on my income. We worried about our future in this country, especially as we saw so many other families migrate.

"Without this project I would still be unemployed at home. But now it is better. I can take care of my family again. We hope for better times. We thank the church for supporting us."

The project was initiated by the Mar Matti monastery, and they worked with the local community and a local Open Doors partner to get the project started. Open Doors supported the project through the church and by providing local partners with a grant to purchase the equipment to get the factory up and running.

Father Yosef, who is overseeing the project on behalf of the monastery, said, "Most products are sold in Baghdad. There are no mountains there, so they have to buy their stone products here in the north. All these workers are now able to support their families. We hope this will give them a reason to stay in this country."

He continues, "Most organisations just distribute food and give people some money. They eat it, they spend it and it's gone. This project offers long-term hope since it guarantees people's salary for the future. And it has become self-sufficient, no new grants are needed to support this factory."

Iraq is number 7 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List. Open Doors has been working with local partners and churches in Iraq for over 20 years to support the church through training, crisis relief, community development projects, and distributing Bibles and Christian literature.

Open Doors has launched the Hope for the Middle East campaign, a global, seven-year campaign mobilising Christians around the world to stand with the church in the Middle East. As part of this, Open Doors is asking people to sign the One Million Voices of Hope petition, which will be presented to the UN in December 2017. The petition calls for equality, dignity and responsibility for Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq, the key things Christians and church leaders from these nations have said they want for the future.

Photo of Father Yosef at the stone factory:

Photo of another man working at the stone factory:

Photos available in larger sizes, and other photos are also available.

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Open Doors UK & Ireland is part of Open Doors International, a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians in over 60 countries for over 60 years. Last year it raised approximately $70 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources. Open Doors UK & Ireland raised over £11 million.

Every year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List - a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts. Data is gathered on five spheres of life – private, family, community, national and church life- plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors' research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom. The 2017 World Watch List accounts for the 12 months ending 31 October 2016.

The Open Doors World Watch List is the only instrument that measures the persecution of Christians annually. Its methodology is designed to track how the exercise of the Christian faith gets squeezed in five distinct areas - private life, family life, community life, national life and church life - as well as covering violence such as rapes, killings and church burnings. Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, Director of Research at Open Doors International, explains why: "It is possible for persecution to be so intense in all areas of life that Christians fear to witness at all. You may find very low levels of violence as a result, because incidents of violent persecution are often a response to acts of witness."