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Iraq: Sweet factory provides security and hope for Christian families
25 April 2017
Situated on the first floor of a rented apartment on one of Erbil's busiest Christian districts, five Iraqi workers set about manning the new machines and preparing ingredients.
Just weeks ago, Open Doors local partners set up this sweet factory to provide Christians displaced by Islamic State (IS) militants with hope through stable work and income. Trays of Iraqi delicacies, like Sorjuq or Halqoum made from syrups, pastries and nuts, rest on the table tops as employees begin working on the second batch.
The 38-year-old factory head, Rabeea, an experience sweet producer, smiles as he talks about the potential of this new factory. "Living in Iraq is difficult, very difficult," he confesses. "We produce all kinds of sweets that are common in our country. For now, we have a limited variety of sweets because we don't have the machines for the other ones. So we could do more, but this is a good start."
And already, business is going well. "We deliver our products to shops all over the country," he says. "We even have requests from abroad, but for now, with the current situation in our country, that is impossible."
As well as providing the community with another local business, the work here is enabling the displaced Christians to earn a regular income for their families - and more believers are going to be hired in the coming weeks.
"When I came here with my family, we had nothing," shares one of the workers. Like his colleagues, he had to flee IS in August 2014 when they overran his hometown of Qaraqosh. Now wearing a blue hairnet and white gloves, he cuts the sweets into quarters and begins placing them into boxes. "I am so happy with this work," he says. "I am thankful to the organisation that employed us."
Having employment and receiving a regular income makes a huge difference to the self-esteem and livelihood of displaced Iraqi believers - many of whom have been out of work for nearly three years.
But this work also stands for something more: it stands for hope.
With savings earned from the factory, these believers dream that they will be able to go home and restore their damaged houses in recently-liberated Qaraqosh. And all of the materials and equipment in this factory are easy to move.
"One day," says Rabeea, "we might be back in our places again, we can continue there with the 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.
Bring hope to the Middle East
Open Doors has launched a global, seven-year campaign to mobilise Christians around the world to bring hope to the Middle East - and we need you and your church to be a part of it. Here are three things you can do to support people like Rabeea:
- Pray. Order a free Pray for ME resource pack to help you lead others in prayer for the church in Iraq and Syria.
- Give. Every £25 could go towards rebuilding homes or restoring livelihoods in Iraq and Syria
- Speak out. Sign the One Million Voices of Hope petition, asking for equality, dignity and responsibility for Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, which will be presented to the UN Secretary General in December. If you've already signed it, download a copy and ask others to sign it too.
Source: Open Doors
- Thank God for this new sweet factory, and for the hard work of Rabeea and the other employees
- That the factory would continue to grow and be successful
- For provision for more projects like this that can help provide long-term help for Iraqi people
- That the Hope for the Middle East campaign would continue to gain momentum and would be instrumental in supporting the rights of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, enabling them to stay.
More News from Iraq:
- 300 Christians celebrate Easter in liberated Bartella
- Christians return to burned out churches to celebrate Palm Sunday
- Stone factory brings hope as battle for Mosul continues
- Displaced Christians celebrate Christmas as they prepare to return home
- Martin returns to Karamles
Find out more about persecution in Iraq.